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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