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Friday, 9 December 2011

5 Stages of Personalised Learning

Personalised learning (PL) is an educational philosophy that focuses on a student's individual goals, talents, aspirations and learning outcomes. Through a semester unit, our class has completed "Self-Directed Music". Through my reflection process, I found that this semester went through 5 stages that I will share with you here.

Step 1: Develop student understanding of PL.

My students are in years 11 and 12. They have been spoon fed their education for most of their lives and the concept of making them responsible for their learning is just as new to them as it is for us teachers. I found that when introducing this unit, some students loved the opportunity of selecting their own topic area and couldn't wait to get started. Conversely, Other students were not used to exploring an area without being a part of a group or class. Uncharted territory...alone. This is where I knew exactly what my role was this semester. This takes us to step 2.

Step 2: Establishing your role as an educational "personal trainer"

A personal trainer would not bring all clients together in one group and expect them to:
- Have the same goals for their fitness and health
- Complete the same fitness program
- Enjoy doing the same thing as everybody else

Why would we expect such things in education?

The students need someone to guide and coach them to achieve their own learning outcomes. Perhaps not all students know what their learning goals are, but in this case, the teacher collaborates with the student and co-designs this with them; just like a personal trainer's first consultation. From that, the student has a clear personalised learning program. My students wrote up a research proposal that indicated their intended direction for the semester. This was not only to keep me informed of their plan, but to ensure they had made a plan for themselves.

Stage 3: Motivate, Affirm and Develop (MAD)

Motivate: We all need someone to keep us in check and encourage us to keep going. At this stage, it's more of a checking in with the student and asking them to brief you on where they are at, what they have found and a where they are heading to next. It's imperative that we continue to motivate students so they don't get complacent, or think their learning is less significant because nobody else is doing it.

Affirm: Sometimes we just need someone to bounce an idea off, or have someone tell us that our idea is a good one. Don't leave this part out. Some students can really flourish when they are told they are onto something....and to keep going. That is where affirmation can also be a form of motivation.

Develop: There might be occasions where students have explored or analysed something, but haven't quite dissected enough substance from it. Maybe they just need a few stepping stones dropped in front of them so they know where to go next and flesh out their ideas.

Stage 4: Collaboration and Assessment

With a class of students all exploring various topics and musical areas, it would be silly to not have students share their knowledge and findings with others in the class. At this stage, students would give a presentation to the class of their topic and by sharing their ideas and knowledge, this gave significance to their study. They knew that students and even myself as a teacher could take something away from their presentation. It gave the students an opportunity to play on their strengths and exhibit their knowledge to others.
Although the presentations are some form of collaboration, presenting to others isn't necessarily working actively with others. This collaboration took place when students wanted to perform as an ensemble and to do this, they needed to find other students with an overlap in the study to create a performance that demonstrated technical fluency, expression and a piece associated with more than one topic area.
Two students worked together to perform a duet. A French Horn player was studying the development and expressive techniques of the French Horn and another student, an Oboist, was studying Korean Music. Together, they wrote a duet that incorporated the French Horn's stylistic techniques, with the use of major pentatonic scales used predominantly in traditional Korean music. It was great to see all this come together. I found that students with more specific topics came out with more interesting material than students with very broad topics such as "heavy metal".

Stage 5 - Evaluation and Reflection
At the final stage, it makes perfect sense for students, and ourselves of course, to look back and reflect on the unit. This can be done in a variety of ways, one being the PMI model which is a list of Plus, Minus and Interesting. Or perhaps a more creative and collaborative way could be to start an online discussion forum or have students write blogs and comment on them. As you can see, this blog you have just read is my reflection of the process and I hope it can be of some help to you when it comes to Personalised Learning in your class.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Reverse Engineered Innovation

The definition of Innovation: "Something newly introduced, such as a new method or device."

Such a simple definition. It's interesting that just by introducing a new device it is considered innovation. But is it really? With innovation being a big part of many recent systemic educational frameworks, we have to think past the device itself, whether it be iPads, smartphones, netbooks etc. and ask ourselves why such technology will make a difference and what that difference would look like. A keynote I listened to recently said this:

"if you were to fast forward your life 5 years and everything was perfect in every way, what would that look like?" so many of us strive for change, but projecting what that is can be the most difficult part. I then translated this into a question of innovative pedagogy.

"if you were to fast forward your classroom 5 years and everything was perfect in every way, what would that look like?" Immediately many of us think technology, Web 2.0, collaborative spaces, game based learning, augmented reality and social networking. Now it goes without saying that much of these technologies are already hitting our classrooms in a big way, but using these technologies simply because they are new does not necessarily mean we are being innovative, despite the definition I began with stating so. Once we can picture what effective 21st Century learning is, we can then reverse engineer that projected outcome in steps to reach it. This may involve minor incremental changes with varying uses for technology. The fascinating part about all this is that our projected outcome may in fact change, and undoubtedly it will. It's a process that is re-configured as we go. How do we keep on top of it all though? There are definitely resources out there. The Horizon Report being one if we want to know what emerging technologies could be introduced in th next 5years.

The emerging technologies just give us an idea as to what we have in our toolbox to design the learning. Once again, the learning outcome is the focus.....not the tool that builds it. That is where true innovative teaching practice can happen.

I feel the best way we can lead each other to innovate is to share and learn from one another. Social networking, Voip, IM and other Web 2.0 counterparts now connect us to inspiring educators all over the globe almost instantly. This was obviously not always the case and it shouldn't be taken for granted. When Benjamin Franklin was asked how he accomplished so much in one lifetime he replied, "I stood on the shoulders of giants." simply put, he learned from those who came before him. Benjamin Franklin was in no way globally connected like we are now. Imagine the potential for learning when students realize just how many shoulders they can stand on.

Friday, 11 November 2011

"daqri" anyone?

Some schools have successfully launched their own smartphone app with a 3rd party developer. This can be rather costly and out of reach for many schools. There is a way however, for students to access school content within a smartphone app and this is one of those ways.

"Daqri" is a smartphone app with the potential to upload and link documents, images, websites, maps and more. The most impressive feature and the real purpose of daqri, is the integration of "Augmented Reality" content, although that is for another blog post alltogether.

A free daqri account gives you 3 "daqris" to use, each with it's own QR-Code that can be accessed by anyone through the daqri app on a smartphone. Once you create your first daqri, it's actually quite easy to upload content to it, add a background or create your own and upload it. For schools, this means that you can give students access to news items, timetables, planners/calendars, school policies, images and links to useful resources. Parents can also download the app and have access to the same content, although it's at the school's disgression as to whether they make this content public, or only make it available to particular people.

The other consideration is that not all students will have a smartphone, so it's important that anything made available on the daqri is also accessible via the website, or in hard copy.

What's this mean for teachers?? With 3 daqris for free (more if you sign up with another email), you can create a daqri for your class. This can give students mobile access to resources, a unit/course outline, assessment dates, a link to useful websites or your email address. If you want to empower your students and create a student-centred environment, you can put your students in charge of maintaining the class daqri and ask they all contribute resources to help one another.

In the Real Hands of the Students
Each student, or a group of students sign up to daqri and create their own daqri on a specific concept/theme/topic of the unit of study. They find quality resources and perhaps write an essay or a blog which the daqri links to, along with some YouTube podcasts the student has recorded to share their findings. On the due date, the student electronically submits a QR-Code which links to their daqri content. Now let's take a look at what you now have done:

Project-Based Learning: collaborating, creating something that extends beyond the classroom using authentic Web 2.0 tools. Although there may be separate goals for different students, it's the first step towards a PBL approach.

Student Ownership: Students could potentially negotiate their topic area, co-authoring their assessment with the teacher.

Digital Literacy: Students locating, organizing, understanding, evaluating, and analyzing information using digital technology. Well, that's exactly how Wikipedia defines DL at least.

Collaboration: I listed this one in PBL, but it deserves it's own mention. Your students are sharing a simple QR-Code that links to quality resources for various topics that can be shared with one another. Lets do the math....

25 students create a daqri each. You then decide to do this with all 5 of your classes. Your students now have access to 125 smartphone apps (daqris) on a specific topic or concept. You then decide to do this in the next semester. Your students now have 250...and so on. Surely within that you could find some pretty amazing stuff and before we know it, our students are more interested in what they're learning from one another, what they can teach each other and what do we become? The Co-Driver

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

QR Codes in Education

You may have set your eyes on a poster, bus stop, real estate sign or some other form of media and noticed a strange looking diagram something like this:

This is a QR-Code, or Quick Response Code. This code works much like a barcode, yet your smartphone is the scanner. With a QR-Code scanner/reader app, your phone can scan this code, recognise it instantly and direct you to the code's intended location. This could be a link to a website, a phone number, VCard or SMS. The best part is that it is fast and easy to set one up. Here's how:

1. Go to a QR-Code Generator website like Kaywa and select what you want the phone to do when it scans your code.

The next step is to either paste the URL of the website, or write the phone number or text message, select the size you want the code to be and hit "generate". Thats it! Then you can save the image of the barcode, send it electronically or print it. Anybody who downloads a QR-Code scanner is able to use the camera within the app to scan your code and access the content.

So how can this be used in education?? Anything that is web accessible can now be on the screen of a student's phone instantly. In music, i'm starting to encourage students to find useful Youtube tutorials on how to use the studio equipment and then sticking a QR-Code on the equipment itself that directs them to this video on their phone. Students may wish to create a QR-Code as an assignment that links to an online blog, journal, photography flickr page with their assignment images, a podcast they produced on Youtube. They can be printed on newsletters to parents that link to the school website, blog or Youtube channel.
QR-Code scavenger hunts are quite popular now also, where a QR would navigate your phone to a google maps location.

The only thing to consider is whether all your students have a smart phone. If they don't have access to one, you may have to ensure that those students can access the same content and not be disadvantaged.

It takes a few minutes to set up, but with a little brainstorming you can create something engaging, all the while enabling students to use their phones properly. Have fun!

Co-driving your classroom

Question... do we harness the potential of technology in the classroom??
Take for example, the smartphone.

When phones are not used correctly, yes they can be a distraction. Although, a smartphone with internet access can connect our students to resources, people outside the classroom and a lot more answers than I can give them. No i'm not cutting myself short, i'm just saying that I the teacher, no longer have all the answers. My students are no longer passive learners because they are now connected to knowledge.....and it's all in the palm of their hands, quite literally! So where does that place us?

Teachers are co-drivers now, yes just like a rally car team. The driver would not cover such large distances in the same amount of time without their co-driver there. Sure, they may reach the finish line eventually...but an intuitive, supportive and focussed co-driver can make all the difference.

What must a co-driver do?? Study the environment....know which direction to take. One of my worst mistakes, was assuming that students know how to find relevant quality information online. Ever said this before?..."Use the internet to research your topic." ...hmmm, maybe someone could suggest to you "Use the planet earth to find your car keys".....was that helpful advice?

But surely, their years of experience using facebook, hotmail and video game cheat sites would enable them to synthesize information for assignments?? They need online orienteering, support, advice....a co-driver.

Here is another blog that includes other search engines for education other than google.
Do we even use google effectively???

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

"Prezi" - Giving your presentation some wow factor

Prezi is all the rage in presentations now, leaving powerpoint looking a little sleepy and flat sometimes. Yes we've all seen those powerpoint presentations that leave you with nothing but watery eyes from trying to read endless slides.

Prezi is online, free and only about a million times better. I can see people may get a little too crazy with it, but when it's used well, it's a very engaging visual reference for presentations, almost to the extent that you forget there's a speaker there because the screen is so captivating!

Once again with that collaboration aspect...students can group themselves together and contribute to the one prezi from various computers and locations.

Sign up for an education account (it's free) and check it steps. It's not that hard, plus it gives you access to a library of free images that ...well people rip images from google all the time but it's naughty naughty and illegal. This way is perfectly legal under Prezi's license.

Prezi also has an iPad viewer app. Free also

Once again i'll stop the video.

Primary Pad - great for netbooks/laptops in class

Primary Pad is so simple and requires no sign up, registration or the need to invite students via email address.

Basically, it's a site that enables you to create an online collaborative document, similar to google docs, but it's quick and easy. with a free account, you can have up to 15 collaborators and your document will remain for 30 days then be erased, but you're able to export it as a pdf. 
It may be tricky having more than 15 people working on the same thing at once anyway.

The best part is you can create one in 5 seconds before your class starts!!
Type the name you want for your document after the web address
so for eg. I want to create a document on the history of Jazz, so i type and if nobody has made a document of that name, it will just ask if you want to create it and voila! There it is! All you do then is share the link with your students and they can jump on and contribute. Each user has a different colour behind the text so you can see who's writing what. There's a chat feature to the side of the document too which allows them to discuss ideas before editing the document, but I can see this being a little distracting for some students...Keep in mind that starting a document this way without creating an account will make the document public. 

Teachers may wish to use this for things such as meeting notes, minutes, group planning etc. 

What do we do with these netbooks now??

Ok so you have a trolley full of netbooks all blinking their standby lights at you and you're thinking..."so what can these do that paper and a pen can't?"
One thing netbooks can allow students to do is connect and collaborate. Yeah sure...but give me some butcher's paper and a set of markers and we're good to go... But, can you invite a student or professional from another country to participate? Postage and all that....sooo not worth it.

Ever done a mind-map in class? That central idea is drawn in the middle and then you hover the marker over the whiteboard, directing students to think of that next linking idea...let's face it, we've already drawn the whole thing in our heads and are just waiting for them to catch up and feel a part of the process.

Mindmeister is an online collaborative mind-mapping tool that allows multiple users to connect to the same mind-map on a seperate device (yes, netbook) and contribute to the mind-map all in real time. This is quite awesome to watch as you can see the map spreading out in different directions all at once. You can add documents to different sections of the maps, notes and all sorts of things...It has a smartphone and ipad app, although a little overpriced... heck i'll stop rambling and you can watch the video.

Education 2.0

"Timeo danaos et dona ferentes" 
"I fear the Greeks, even when they bear gifts" - Virgil

Well, as much as i'd like to say it's wonderful that the government has decided to give us a 1:1 ratio of laptops/computers to every student, but what can this actually do to change the way students learn? 

Now that we have a 1:1 ratio, it's assumed that the sheer provision of technology is all it takes to bring Education into the 21st Century, when in fact, hundreds of these wondrous devices are happily sleeping in storage cabinets and will be...for a very long time.

Now why is that....?  Well, it's not the physical resources we need to upgrade....

Yes you know what I mean and no don't take offense because we've all been there! In fact it's harder than we think to pull ourselves out of that comfort zone. Here's a personal example:

One day I booked a lesson in the computer lab where I organised for students to research information on an online article I linked them to and answer questions on a pre-made microsoft word document to save in a network folder. When I was in school, this would have been a step up from the regular comprehension as we got to surf the web !! Although nowadays, students are not so fascinated with this as it's now a part of their every day lives. 

Just as many of us would have been "wowed" by the introduction of email, I doubt many of us marvel at our inboxes these days...oh fun fun. my surprise (back then anyway) I heard this chorus of groans when I gave them the intro to the lesson and yeah, my students drearily typed the answers out (those that could be bothered attempting) that were cunningly hidden within the article in a perfect sequence that gave them little to no flexibility, ownership, collaboration...or enjoyment. 

I walked into that lesson confident and thinking to myself "yeah look at me... successfully integrating technology into the classroom..WOO!"  That "Maverick" confidence lasted all of 5 seconds into the period as my lesson was chewed up and spat out.

Many of us give up right there or at least think....i'll stick with what i'm good at, where i'm comfortable and not delve into the potential train wreck of a lesson like the one I mentioned.

DON'T GIVE UP!  When this technology is used well, which does take's quite exciting...!

Remember....The future belongs to the risk takers, not the security seekers.

Stay tuned on this blog for some posts on what's out there for teachers in the 21st Century.