Friday, November 27, 2015

Buzzword Bingo presentation

I did a presentation recently at a maths day called Buzz Word Bingo  - thought I would share the slides!

Buzzword Bingo - personalised learning, modern learning practice and environments, collaboration, student agency, BYOD, etc.

What are all the buzzwords really about? Why does there seem to be so much non-stop change in education? Why does it seem like we are constantly needing to teach more and more things? Why does it seem like often we just can't keep up anymore? This session will bring together academic arguments and take a look at the practical implications for the department and classroom. Are these all just fads, or is there more to the story?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Why bother with change in education?

My latest Core Education EDtalk. Thanks to all the great thinkers, academics, practitioners and more who have developed my thinking in this area. If you want to know more, I highly recommend you read some of the following:
  • Too Big to Know - Weinberger, D. (2011). Too Big to Know. New York: Basic Books.
  • Learning futures: Education, technology and social change - Facer, K. (2011). Learning futures: Education, technology and social change. Taylor & Francis.
  • Catching the Knowledge Wave? The Knowledge Society and the future of education - Gilbert, J. (2005). Catching the Knowledge Wave? The Knowledge Society and the future of education. Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.
  • Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching - a New Zealand Perspective - Bolstad, R., Gilbert, J., McDowall, S., Bull, A., Boyd, S., & Hipkins, R. (2012). Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching - a New Zealand Perspective: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.
  • Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy - Brynjolfsson, E., & McAfee, A. (2012). Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy. Massachusetts: Digital Frontier Press.

Monday, November 9, 2015

My masters: Using MOOCs and complexity thinking to disrupt current debates on educational futures.

As many of you will know, for some time now I have been dabbling in post graduate studies. Although for some time I thought that I might examine some aspect of mathematics education, a chance meeting with the legendary Jane Gilbert in February this year saw me change my mind. I ditched my previous proposals (which fortunately was still very useful in learning how to use words like ontology and epistemology). Although I have met some fascinating and knowledgeable researchers and academics over the past few years, Jane was the first that genuinely listened with intent to the story of #edchatNZ and my passion for bringing about change in the education system. I talked about my hope to develop a MOOC (massive open online course) to deepen the many wonderful discussions I had seen on #edchatNZ. So, together we have embarked on a very exciting project - designing a MOOC examining Education Futures, and then studying what happens. It was an opportunity not to be missed, and one that even early on in this project, has turned my thinking inside out and on its head, inside out and back around. Like all things #edchatNZ, you can sign up to help build and design, or participate in the discussion. Even better, would be if you chose to participate, if you invited friends parents and colleagues. The larger the community that takes part in discussions about education futures, the more likely that we will see the changes that we so desperately know our students need. You can learn more about the MOOC on the #edchatNZ website, as well as sign up for more information or to participate in its design.

For those of you who are interested in the more academic side of things, below is part of the more formal research proposal for this project.

Major changes in the world beyond education have led to calls for a more “future-focused” education system: however, change has so far been slow or small in scale. This project plans to investigate one possible way to bring about the required change on a larger scale. It will explore the extent to which participants in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) talk to colleagues about ideas they are exposed to, and what these conversations are like. It will also explore the extent to which participants’ thinking (about education) changes as they experience the MOOC. 

Major world trends including the rise of technology, globalisation, networked knowledge and the increasing urgency of “wicked problems” such as climate change have led many to argue for change in education (e.g. Berry, 2011; Bolstad et al., 2012; Brynjolfsson & McAfee, 2012; Claxton, 2013; Gilbert, 2005; Snyder, 2013). We also know that the way our young people interact with the world via technology is very different from any previous generation (Collins & Halverson, 2010; Gardner & Davis, 2014), and that the nature of knowledge, the traditional foundation of education, is also shifting (Biesta, 2007; Cope & Phillips, 2009; Gardner & Davis, 2014; Weinberger, 2011). However, despite this, change in education is slow, often non-existent. Many authors argue that our education system and its underpinning ideas have not co-evolved with the wider society, and, as a result, are no longer “fit for purpose” (e.g. Berry, 2011; Brynjolfsson & McAfee, 2012; Collins & Halverson, 2010; Gilbert, 2005; Weinberger, 2011). Unless shift is generated across the network, our education system’s capacity to meet the needs of today’s students will continue to decline. 

While there have been many attempts at reform in education, most of these attempts have been “top down” approaches, involving new “inputs” into the system (new policies, structures, technologies, curriculum, pedagogical approaches, and/or assessment systems). While these approaches may result in superficially new forms of organisation and/or new ways of talking about what happens in the system, they have not produced the kind of system-wide change that is needed (Snyder, 2013). New approaches are needed. 

According to Forte, Humphreys, and Park (2012), educators who belong to, and regularly participate in, professional sharing and discussion in social networks are more likely to participate in reform efforts. Daly (2010) shows that specific subgroups within a network such as education can inhibit or lend support for overall strategies as they are made up of more densely connected networks. This project’s aim is to explore the possible influence of these networks and subgroups on the system as a whole. While some work has been done in this area, it has (so far) been small in scale (and therefore unlikely to affect system wide change), or unable to foster the kind of in-depth interaction and thinking required (for example, the various Twitter-based professional networks available to educators).

This project’s starting point is the idea that change will not come from adding more “inputs” - more administration, more policy, more ideas, and more processes - into the existing system. Rather, change has to come from within the system. Hence, the focus of this project is a within-system initiative designed to produce more – and deeper - interactions between the system’s elements. The idea is that this increased interaction will produce a shift in the way teachers think about education, across the system, and, following from this, new ways of working with past “inputs”. This within-system initiative is the proposed MOOC.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) became popular in 2012 (Daniel, 2013). These free or low cost university courses allow open access to knowledge traditionally only available in formal university degree programmes. MOOCs potentially allow large numbers of people, irrespective of location and/or circumstances, to participate in discussion and engagement with complex ideas.

This project involves developing a MOOC that is designed to make available some “big ideas” about education’s future, and to encourage participants to discuss these ideas with others. The research part of the project is designed to investigate the extent to which exposure to, and debate about, the ideas affects participants’ thinking about education. 

Research Questions
  1. Do participants who have voluntarily enrolled in a MOOC discuss the ideas they are exposed to in the MOOC with colleagues and/or family and friends?
  2. If they do, how in-depth/ extensive are these conversations?
  3. Do these experiences change the way they think about education?
The broader context is to investigate the potential of MOOCs for facilitating within-system change. 

  • Berry, B. (2011). Teaching 2030: What we must do for our students and our public schools: Now and in the future. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Biesta, G. (2007). Towards the knowledge democracy? Knowledge production and the civic role of the university. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 26(5), 467-479. doi: 10.1007/s11217-007-9056-0
  • Bolstad, R., Gilbert, J., McDowall, S., Bull, A., Boyd, S., & Hipkins, R. (2012). Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching - a New Zealand Perspective: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.
  • Brynjolfsson, E., & McAfee, A. (2012). Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy. Massachusetts: Digital Frontier Press.
  • Claxton, G. (2013). What's the point of school?: Rediscovering the heart of education. London: Oneworld Publications.
  • Collins, A., & Halverson, R. (2010). The second educational revolution: rethinking education in the age of technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 18-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2009.00339.x
  • Cope, B., & Phillips, A. (2009). Signs of epistemic disruption: transformations in the knowledge system of the academic journal The Future of the Academic Journal: Elsevier Science.
  • Daly, A. J. (2010). Social Network Theory and Educational Change: Harvard Education Press.
  • Daniel, J. (2013). Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility. Open Education Research, 3(006). 
  • de Waard, I., Abajian, S., Gallagher, M. S., Hogue, R., Keskin, N., Koutropoulos, A., & Rodriguez, O. C. (2011). Using mLearning and MOOCs to understand chaos, emergence, and complexity in education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 12(7). 
  • Forte, A., Humphreys, M., & Park, T. (2012). Grassroots Professional Development: How Teachers Use Twitter Paper presented at the Proceedings of the Sixth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media.
  • Gardner, H., & Davis, K. (2014). The App Generation: How Today's Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Gilbert, J. (2005). Catching the Knowledge Wave? The Knowledge Society and the future of education. Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.
  • Snyder, S. (2013). The simple, the complicated, and the complex: educational reform through the lens of complexity theory. OECD Publishing, 96. 
  • Weinberger, D. (2011). Too Big to Know. New York: Basic Books.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Stop pretending that you know!

I have been grappling with what the Knowledge explosion has meant for the curriculum, in other words, what we teach and how we teach it. +Rose Hipkins and Jane Gilbert independently drew my attention recently to how frequently as teachers we still say things like 'learning about electricity' ... Learning facts is no longer enough. As teachers, we need to be careful when we still treat knowledge as something we have and our students do not, something that we have to impart to our students. I find that often I still catch myself thinking and doing things that suggests that my theory-in-action and espoused theory are not quite as aligned as I would like. The question that I keep asking myself at the moment (and my students...); Google knows 'about' stuff, what can you do with this knowledge that Google can't? In other words, what value do I add that Google does not? And I'm not talking about fruitlloop websites here, I'm talking scholarly articles, encyclopaedias, scientists, government organisations etc.

Then, to add another layer to my ongoing subject teacher identity crisis (see this blog post here), I am increasingly becoming aware of students whose expertise far exceed mine in different areas. And this is, as it should be. My students, and yours, are incredibly diverse and bring with them enormous cultural capital, experiences and knowledge. I am not the (only) font of knowledge. For example, I have a student with a huge interest in quantum particles and another with a knack for asking incredibly insightful questions and representing his research with infographics. I have a passionate basketballer and an aspiring race car driver who spends huge amounts of time volunteering at the racecourse.

On top of this is the fact that the internet has made the boundaries that we have put between silos of disciplines increasingly artificial. We filter forward rather than out.
Expertise was topic based - Books focus on specific topics because they have to fit between two covers. So, in a book-based world, knowledge looks like something that divides into masterable domains. … topics don’t divide up neatly. They connect messily. While people of course still develop deep expertise, the networking of those experts better reflects the overall truth that topic boundaries are often the result of the boundaries of paper.” - Too Big to Know by David Weinberger
What does it mean to be a teacher in an age of Knowledge explosion? An age where Google knows better than me, and in many contexts, the students know better than me, even in academic contexts? What does it mean to be a teacher and teach a curriculum, when new disciplines, new fields have been discovered, and others have been disestablished since 'someone' decided what students should learn at what level? Why year elevens should learn linear equations? Why year twelves should learn this, and year nines that? What does it mean to be a teacher in the post-normal times, where the world of people is more complex, more connected, more uncertain? To be a teacher in a world where the existing ways of thinking has produced climate change and inequality? Problems that can only be solved by crossing the boundaries of different disciplines?

It's all a bit daunting isn't it? Fortunately, I am finding that I am increasingly comfortable with uncertainty. The more I think about the future, my future, the world's future, the more I realise that pretending like there is an answer out there that I just have to find, to know, is not helpful. The world and its people are too diverse to assume an answer. I can not 'know' it all, and it is important that I stay humble and stop acting the 'knower' when I can not know. If I approach this uncertainty with an attitude that I or someone else has the answer, I shut myself down to innovation, deep empathetic problem solving and collaboration. There genuinely are situations where we can not know the answer, and it is important that I acknowledge when I am dealing with a situation where I can, and can not be the 'knower'.

But... what does that look like in practice, in a classroom?! Well, this week it looked like 50 students doing their own inquiry into 'create a robot to address a need'. Students started the inquiry independently on Friday with a reliever. From there, Steve, my co-teacher and I, split the class into two groups, those who were able to self manage and make a decent start, and those who did not. Those who struggled to self manage were then supported to work in a quiet space with regular teacher checkins. Those students who were able to self manage then self selected based on their needs into one of three workshops ran by other students. For these workshops, I invited three students to plan a lesson (with a lesson planning template and SOLO rubric) that would help their peers improve their inquiries. In other words, I wanted the three students running the workshops to use their expertise. One student ran her session about data collection from experiments. Another about how to use questions to find unique perspectives in your inquiry and how to present these through infographics. Another on how misconceptions in science can be addressed through different types of video formats with examples from quantum theory. These are year tens...

As I sat and eavesdropped on the conversations from my students, I was reminded just how important it was that I stop thinking that I 'know' more than my students. I know different things than my students, not more. I am an expert in some areas, but they are too. They are 'knowers' too, and it is about time that I move alongside my students, rather than standing in front of them. In front I might just be in their way. So for the time being, I have ditched the labels teacher-centred and student-centred, and instead, I am experimenting with what it means to be a collaborator - building collective intelligence, not just finding new ways to transfer what I know.