Sep
19

Riding the eFellow wave

I've always been keen to try out new things, things that will improve my thinking and approach to my teaching. I don't mind being pushed outside my comfort zone, but when I became an eFellow I was tossed into a tumultuous wave that first struck me with fear, but then excited me. It was a voyage of discovery like no other. Now that I'm near the end of this fantastic journey (which is really like a beginning), I thought I'd share some of these things with others. I'd love others to reap the benefits I have gained through the eFellow experience.

Riding the eFellow wave  (Photo credit: Derek Fryer)

Catching the wave

A 2011 eFellow and digital mentor, Sonya van Schaijik, encouraged me to apply to be a CORE Education eFellow, and I am very grateful for that spark which lit a fire in my professional development and practice. From the moment I received the Inspector Gadget style self destructing top secret email, “I need to speak to you urgently, don’t tell anyone…”, from John Fenaughty on the drive back from a fishing trip to the Ruakituri, I was in disbelief (mainly because I had been off the grid for a few  days, and was a bit confused about the reality of the situation). There have been 80 eFellows to date, and I feel extremely privileged to be part of an alumni that includes many influential and prolific members of New Zealand education.

At the time, I didn’t really know what I was in for, so hopefully this post will help paint a bit of a picture for anyone interested in the journey of a CORE Education eFellow. The original eFellow model was quite different, where a whole year was allocated and funded by the Ministry of Education to support teacher enquiry. In 2014, the eFellows met for three-day workshops in the regional centers of Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, and finally the culmination of the experience will be in Rotorua, where we share our findings at the ULearn education conference.

Leaving Gisborne

Leaving Gisborne…

Being from Gisborne, and confronted with the barriers of expensive travel and time away from school, I haven’t really had much of a chance to take part in any extensive professional learning other than the brilliant virtual PD through webinars on the VLN. I haven’t been to ULearn, or any of the other conferences, so I welcomed every minute with open arms, and was determined to gain as much as possible from each trip. From every experience I aimed to learn or try something new that would benefit the everyday teaching and learning in my class, as well as challenge my thoughts about education.

At the newly opened Hobsonville Point Secondary school we looked into how NCEA could be adapted, and I decided to embark on ‘curriculum hacking’ with my level 2 PE students.

Mark Osborne inspired us through looking at whole-school change and where we could be heading — this trip influenced the focus of my enquiry around agency in a traditional school.

In Christchurch we went to the amazing Breen’s intermediate, and the principal Brian Price showed us around. I was especially interested in the task-based values programme — Brian was kind enough to share it with me, and I have adapted it to fit into our Tu Tane programme about growing good men. I feel this has really changed the way that our students have interacted with us this year, as well as the shift of learners leading their learning.

We also had the privilege of a session with Derek Wenmoth, which was brilliant as he was one of the original catalysts for my interest in learner agency. 

In Wellington Karen Melhuish Spencer and Chrissie Butler talked to us about inclusive education and challenged us to change the lenses through which we viewed schools and asked us lots of questions about ‘should’ we be using technology in schools.

At each point John and Louise Taylor brought different perspectives to our enquiry and points to pause and reflect on, as well as ideas that would project to new understanding and lines of enquiry — they have been thoughtful, caring and brilliant mentors that have had a huge impact on all of us.

Ideas

Ideas can come from anywhere, keep your camera handy!

The fellowship aims to provide inspired transformational practice through enquiry, but has also been transformational by allowing us to be surrounded by inspirational people. The 2014 eFellows are a fantastically unique group of people who couldn’t be more different in some respects, however, we all have an undying passion to make a difference to the learners we see in front of us each day.

When we are together it feels as if it is a form of collective therapy — a place where we can talk without the constraints of knowing anyone who has a connection or a link to our schools, with people who are still interested in education and hearing about what it is like. The key is that much of the deficit theorising about students — a natural and human part of teaching — is removed. We don’t know any of each other’s students, which often gets in the way of many deep and meaningful conversations about schools and learning.

Sorting through our data by the sea, Kapiti Coast on the Wellington trip…

Sorting through our data by the sea, Kapiti Coast on the Wellington trip

The journey provided us with inspiration and motivation at the start of the year, and the time and guidance towards the end — a carefully constructed pathway upon which each of us could lay down our own route and individual experiences. 

After feeling like we were well and truly dropped in the deep end in Auckland, I felt like I was on an undulating wave of confusion with tension between ideas, and riding towards a huge heap of jagged rocks on the shore. But being able to connect and share with the group let me feel like I was on the right wave, and re-affirmed the thoughts I had.

I am almost at the end of the journey, and it has been a wonderful experience that I will never forget, and feel so privileged to be a part of. It has allowed me to grow, to recognise that there are other people like myself, people in the flesh. It is the conversations, connections, and challenges overcome that will never flow away once the fellowship year is over.

working together

Whanaungatanga.. Working together through shared experiences to support each other on the journey

5 Tips for future eFellows

  1. Tie up any loose ends from school before you leave. It’s like being on a stag/hen weekend; you want to let your hair down and don’t need to worry about what is happening back home — you will return to school with a severe knowledge hangover!
  2. Work out an effective way to take notes. I used a good old moleskine notebook and pen, but integrated it with Evernote by scanning a digital copy, and adding tags. I also used the recording function on Evernote to capture the presentations and talks we were part of. There are other apps that will do the same job though.
  3. Take pictures. Your experience will be completely different to the next person walking around the school with you — certain things will catch your eye and mean something to you, so take those personal shots. It is also a good way to back up whiteboard notes and ideas in shared workshops.
  4. Establish good sleeping habits.Your mind will be so full of ideas it will be hard to sleep. After having a couple of restless nights during the first experience made it hard in the day to concentrate and make the most of it. Have some backup Valerian root from the health shop to help you sleep, or you could go for something stronger from the doctor.
  5. Embrace the whole experience. Challenge yourself and the other eFellows. Between you there will be a vast amount of collective knowledge, so utilise this, and build on the experience together!

Light at the end of the tunnel.

The light at the end of the tunnel and almost at the end of the journey, but already thinking about the next wave.

Sep
16

Ten Trends 2014: Global connectedness

Trend 8: Global connectedness

CORE's Ten Trends for 2014 have been published. This post considers the seventh of these trends: Global connectedness. We publish posts on one of the trends approximately each month. You are encouraged to comment or provide supporting links.

Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi
With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive

Global connectedness

Most of us now have more opportunities to connect with others than ever before. Social networks, global branding and economic advancement, ease of travel and global communications – all accessed through a handheld device — characterise the world in which we live. I used to think that having a pen pal in Norway, to whom I wrote on delicate airmail paper, was the height of sophistication. Now I can talk to her face-to-face, share photos of our families, use Google Translate to write in Norwegian, even visit her town on Google Earth.

If you remember the world pre-Internet, it is truly something to be marvelled at. But it can also shock us; the now open, public nature of world events can harshly illustrate inequalities in living conditions, levels of prosperity and opportunities.

In this globally connected world, our challenge as educators is to prepare our learners to not only take advantage of all that this offers, but also to encourage them to question, investigate and act as global citizens.
 

What do we mean by “global connectedness”?

It is only a few decades since it took up to 100 days [Source: Te Ara] to sail to New Zealand from Europe. Letters took weeks. The closure of my local Post Office shop marks the influence of our changing, connected world. Through a combination of email, social networks and online shopping – by which I can purchase everything, from runner beans to running shoes, without leaving the house – many of our local stores are under threat. The convenience of being able to shop anytime, anywhere, purchase a Starbucks coffee in any city in the world or Skype someone in another country for just a few cents, seem to be unrelentingly tipping many countries beyond a point of no-return towards complete reliance on global connections.

While some countries have benefited from economic growth and improved living conditions as a result, never have we been so aware of how others live — and how unequal this can be. For example, although poverty levels in Latin America and the Caribbean (2001-2012) fell, 200m people, or 38% of the population, remain vulnerable [source: UNDP, 2014]. Global problems require global solutions. The Global Education First Initiative (United Nations), for example, advocates for equality of opportunity and access to education across the world [Source: United Nations, GEFI].

In moments of crisis, such as the Christchurch earthquake and events in the Middle East, and in times of celebration, like the Olympics, social networks light up and unite us through shared stories, viral videos, real-time reporting from citizen journalists and mobile-phone-wielding bloggers. Our connectedness can bring us together to share joy, to unearth illegal behaviour, to spotlight political activity, to raise money for charity (ALS Ice Challenge, anyone?). It brings untold benefits while exposing (even amplifying) mob mentality, inequality and injustice.

In New Zealand, this global connectedness can turn cheeky local start-ups into global heavyweights. Tested in a small market, we see our local heroes turn to global success: think Xero accountancy, Loomio software, Hapara teacher dashboard, and Icebreaker clothing to name a few. Crucially, we must remember that it is our local character, our cultures — particularly that of Māori and Pasifika peoples — and our specialist knowledge that grounds us globally.

Drivers

There are three major drivers behind this trend of global connectedness:

  • Technology: This has been a powerful catalyst, enabler and intervention. Internet World Stats indicate growth across the planet in terms of usage, albeit unevenly. In the 2012 census, 4 out of 5 New Zealand homes had Internet access.
    global connectedness
  • Changing demographics: Growth in workforces, aging populations, and increased international mobility in the search for employment has impacted on labour markets and supplies of skilled workers [Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment]. Many of New Zealand’s workforce travel here from overseas, often on short-term contracts, while other roles are now managed offshore.
  • Economic competition: The continuous push to win competitive advantage, in terms of supply and demand, now operates at a global level and impacts across social, political and environmental systems. While countries that operate competitive policies can grow their markets, the recent global economic crisis highlighted the risks and challenges that lie in such an interconnected system.

Impact on education: what does it look like for our learners?

The NZ Curriculum has anticipated this trend in its vision for connected learners who can support the well-being of New Zealand, can relate to others, participate and contribute to the world around them. Te Marautanga o Aotearoa also focuses on the same aspirations: Mā tēnei momo ako, ka āhei rātou ki te kake ake ki te tihi o ō rātou ake pūmanawa, ā, ki te mahi i runga i te tōtika, i te whai hua anō i roto i te hapori Māori me te ao whānui.

Technologically, there is growing support at a national level to ensure our schools have fast-connections (via Ministry initiatives such as the managed network and SnuP) and for our learners to have access to digital devices (see Future-focused learning in connected communities). There is support, too, for our teaching staff to be effective users of technology in the service of student-centred learning themselves (via Enabling e-Learning and PLD). There are growing social networks of educators who connect with others to develop their practice (such as the VLN and Connected Educator Month) and grassroots activities driven by local educators in global networks (#edchatnz,#TeachMeetNZ). There is growing interest and conversation around what ‘future-focused’ education might mean in our connected world.

As a result, we are seeing schools, kura, and ECE centres exploring and refining learning programmes that take advantage of global connections – and also inviting learners to inquire into their impact on their communities and beyond as citizens with an active part to play.  

For example:

Challenges and opportunities

global connectedness

For educators today, in a world of global connections, there are a number of issues for us to consider:

  • Designing learning that is authentic and grounded in the real-world: Learning to question, engage legitimately with “wicked problems” (see Hipkins, Bolstad, Boyd & McDowall, 2014) and orient towards justice and action (see Westheimer & Kahne’s framework here).
  • Using approaches (pedagogies) that foster relationships and learning through participation: Explore the Key Competencies Online site and the school examples here for useful starting points.
  • Harnessing technology as the engine to drive the curriculum and pedagogy above: Our challenge is to model and encourage the use of technologies in ways that help learners engage meaningfully with others, have their voices heard, learn how information is filtered, seek alternative perspectives, present their views, collaborate, test and share.
  • Foster global (digital) citizens: Learners need to understand that a world of global connections, especially on the internet, presents challenges due to the lack of regulation and ease of self-publication. Explore NetSafe Kit and resources to support digital citizenship development in school.

For us as educators, if we are to be better together than we are apart, our first challenge is to embrace connectedness as a disposition of our modern profession. Secondly, we need to help our learners embrace the opportunities of connectedness in ways that understand that global does not mean equal. Our learners need to be critical thinkers, open to community action, globally-oriented and culturally-located. Thriving globally, grown locally.

Questions for discussion

  • How do your students and staff connect globally through authentic current teaching and learning programmes?
  • What languages and cultures are heard, taught and celebrated in your school? And how can an openness to others’ cultures be fostered?
  • Does your graduate profile address the imperatives of preparing your students for life in an increasingly globalized society?

Image credits:

For more about the Ten Trends:

Sep
09

First word, Tablet

Child and Tablet

Recently, I have had a few calls from anxious teachers and parents concerned about the use of mobile devices in early childhood education. An online survey conducted by a UK tech company has been highlighted in themedia, causing concern as the news headlines suggest that for many babies their first word is ‘tablet’. In fact, the survey states that one in eight babies say tablet as their very first word — even before the words Mum and Dad. This is concerning especially when 3,614 parents took part in the study. This would mean than 289 children say tablet before they say any other word!

I find this hard to believe.  We know that young children’s first words develop from people and things that are important to them such as parents, siblings, pets and other major items in children’s worlds.  For children’s first word to be tablet, these devices would have to be very significant in their lives. If they are, then rather than criticise the ‘tablet,’ should we instead be looking more at who is putting these devices in the hands of infants and toddlers — so much so that these young children are choosing this as their first word?

The impact of tablets on our society is seen in the drive to market supporting products to young children including devices that hold tablets such as bouncers and toilet training devices. However, the ultimate decision for purchase is up to us, as adults as is the way we enable our children to interact with these devices and products, and the time we allow for them to do this.

I believe that tablet use can support young children’s learning.  However, there are certain conditions that make this so including having purpose, being supported by an adult and that children create rather than consume content (screen-time). At no stage, should a tablet should become a vital part of an infant or toddlers world or replace any other learning area. Balance and purpose of use are essential when considering learning for young children.

Studies like the one mentioned above provide us the opportunity to question and reflect. So, while I do not concur with the findings of this particular study or the way that some of the relating headlines have portrayed tablets as dangerous to young children, it has led to some interesting discussions about mobile device use. More importantly, it is a good reminder to think about purpose and balance of mobile devices particularly in regards to young children.

 

Tara, along with Ann Hatherly and Tania Coutts, are presenting a workshop as part of the Connected Educator Month. This workshop ‘Stretching young minds: ICT in early childhood education’ considers the pedagogy of using technology with young children.

Sep
05

Reflection on Tongan Language Week

Malo e lelei

“Ala i Sia – Ala i Kolonga” – “Skilfull at Sia, Skillful at Kolonga”
( Appreciate being able to skillfully multi-task)

This week I’m talking with Losalima Magele about her reflections on Tongan Language Week – Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e Lea Faka-Tonga. This year, the theme for Tongan language week is: “Ko e kai ia ‘a e Tonga – Enriching Aotearoa with Tongan Wisdom”.

CORE Pasifika Team celebrate Tonga Language Week

The Pasifika Team celebrate Tongan Language Week

Tell us a bit about yourself …

Losalima Magele
Lima Magele

Tonga has over 170 islands. About 40 of them are inhabited. They are divided into three main groups – Vava'u, Ha'apai, and Tongatapu. I come from the beautiful island of Vava’u. I am married to a Samoan, so my children are bicultural and we live in Christchurch. I work in the area of Early Childhood Education, and a part of that has been providing PLD for teachers who work with our Pasifika families and helping to unpack the Pasifika Education Plan.

What are your impressions about Tongan language week?

It is important to encourage our children to feel confident in their identity, language, and culture particularly in this multicultural society. I also believe that this is an important part of being Tongan. This helps our New Zealand born children to establish and maintain good relationships with family members particularly those back in Tonga. This is also supported by what the research is telling us about bilingualism. Children who are going to school with a strong foundation of their mother tongue develop stronger literacies and switch on to education more successfully.

How can teachers support our Tongan students?

Here’s a story that I think highlights one of these points. I was called to a Primary School about 15 years ago. I was an Early Childhood supervisor in one of our Pasifika centres. They brought me in to help the school to support some of the Tongan students. The school could not work out what language they were speaking. It was a combination of English and Tongan but not distinctly either. What we found out was that the non-speaking English parents were trying to talk in English at home to their children because they wanted their children to be able to speak English when they go to school. We need our families to value and support their mother tongue when that language has a strong foundation – this makes learning English easier.

Teachers of Tongan students need to know their students and their world. Pronouncing their names correctly is a great initial step. It helps the students feel that teacher empathise and care for them. Of course a big part of that is being able to laugh with them, and understand something of their community life.

I am reminded of a saying that I think sums this all up: “The culture of the child cannot enter the classroom until it has first entered the consciousness of the teacher”

Malo ‘aupito

Try some of these basic Tongan phrases:
Mālō e lelei 

Hello

Fefe hake?

How are you? (Singular) Mo fefe hake? (dual) Mou fefe hake? (plural)

Sai pe malo

Fine thank you

Ko hai ho hingoa?

What’s your name

Ko hoku hingoa ko Sione

My name is Sione

Ko ho’o ha’u mei fe?

Where are you from?

Ko ‘eku ha’u mei Tonga

I come from Tonga

 'Alu a

Good-bye to the person who is leaving

Nofo a

Goodbye to the person who staying

Fakamolemole

Please

Links

Quiz

Coat of Arms:

Tonga coat of arms
Source: Wikipedia

Adopted 1875 — the royal crown with the olive branch around it — three swords represent the three dynasties  or lines of the king of Tonga — the dove with the olive branch symbolises the peace of God — the 3 stars symbolise the main islands of Tonga which which are Tongatapu, Vava’u and Haapai.

The motto: ‘Ko e ‘Otua mo Tonga ko hoku tofi’a’

The challenge is: Can you find out what the motto means in English?

Losalima MageleLima Magele is an Early Years Facilitator for CORE Education. Prior to joining CORE Education, Lima was Early Childhood Education Adviser for the Ministry of Education, where she aspired to support and implement high quality outcomes for all tamariki within the context of Early Childhood Education. Lima sees herself as an advocate for all tamariki and their whānau. Her work is underpinned by a strong foundation of whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, integrity, loyalty, respect for others, and a child-centred approach.

Lima is the presenter at an Early Years Enable workshop: Engaging Pasifika fanau/ whānau in November 2014.

Sep
03

Digital citizenship for adults (teachers, parents, whānau)

digital citizenship

It’s clear that digital citizenship is considered as different things by different people, and many people equate it with online safety, as well as something that is mainly for young students. In schools digital citizenship is sometimes focussed on concepts such as cybersafety, a term that is itself often used interchangeably with digital citizenship, as illustrated by Derek Wenmoth in the video below. (The video is related to the school sector, and illustrates the phenomenon of using cybersafety and digital citizenship interchangeably).

2010 Ten trends: Cyber citizenship from EDtalks on Vimeo.

However, digital citizenship is far wider in its scope and encapsulates a number of areas that we ignore at our peril.

What does digital citizenship ‘mean’?

If digital citizenship is taken to refer to all users of the Internet — including via smartphones — it is clear to see that it is way more than cybersafety (have a read of this post and video by John Fenaughty for example).

We need to be aware of the legal and cultural contexts in which we communicate and work. As kaiako we also need to be aware of the opportunities and challenges of communicating…and learning…within an online environment. These, however, cannot be fully understood in isolation from our socially based understanding about learning, education’s changing perspectives on what constitutes effective learning, and attitudes to technology.

In 2004 Ribble, Bailey, and Ross defined digital citizenship as “the norms of behavior with regard to technology use” (p. 7). Ribble later updated their definition to “the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use” [emphasis not in the original] (Ribble, n.d., Para. 1). Ribble’s definition does not, however, overtly refer to the social aspect of interacting online — something that Nancy Groh (NetSafe NZ) highlights when she writes that digital citizenship “is the combination of technical and social skills that enable a person to be successful and safe in the information age” (2010, para. 1).

Focussing more on the social elements of digital citizenship, Mossberger, Tolbert, and McNeal (2008) suggest that it is "the ability to participate in society online" (p. 1), and then go on to explore the nuances of the word ‘citizenship’. Citizenship indicates that members of a community, in return for certain civil, political, and social rights, agree “to live the life of a civilized being according to the standards prevailing in the society’’ (Marshall, 1992, in Mossberger, Tolbert, and McNeal, 2008, p. 1). Their definition includes an assumption that digital citizens use the Internet regularly, as well as including underpinning considerations of ethics, democracy of communication and expression, equality, and behaviour (Mossberger, Tolbert, & McNeal, 2008).

Potential

So, what relevance does digital citizenship have for you — as an individual, as an adult learner, a parent, whānau, tīpuna (grandparents)…and as a member of (many) communities, as well as kaiako (teachers) and leaders in education?

In 2001, Morrison, indicated to the New Zealand Parliament that shifts in the way that business is carried out could offer opportunities for people “to prosper, and a threat if they are slow to adapt….It will also raise equity issues if all New Zealanders are not able to take full advantage of its opportunities” (p. 1). Morrison’s observation “provides a strong case for digital citizenship as a societal concern” (Mossberger, Tolbert, & McNeal, 2008, p. 35).

You may already stay in touch with friends and whānau overseas using Skype or something similar, and have learned something by watching YouTube videos or taking part in an online course. You might also shop, do your banking, and read or watch the news online.

Some aspects of digital citizenship are guided by policies, others are dictated by rules and laws, while still others are open to discussion and interpretation. If you’re not aware of your rights, responsibilities, and some of the ethics that influence communicating in online spaces, you could be heading for issues. So, you might like to reflect on what your stance is, especially around culture, ethics and values, and take or create opportunities for robust discussion.

Considerations

We’ve looked at what digital citizenship means, and dipped into some of its potential, but what does it ‘look like’? An example could be developing strategies to ensure that the digital world doesn’t totally overwhelm your tamariki, or you! Faced with the vast range of communication tools and options we now have, coupled with the ability to contact each other anytime, anywhere, there can be issues the stress of feeling ‘on call’ 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Feeling on call can be something that affects both children and adults, and developing strategies around this issue is essential. For younger members of your family, it may be a case of talking about how many hours a week you both feel it’s healthy to be online. Be ready for protestations such as ‘but my friends are allowed…’. It’s worth agreeing on guidelines, and being firm about things such as where and when devices are used in the house – and then thinking about whether you are following and modelling what you’ve both agreed on!

Some implications

Hopefully, it is clear that education, in all its forms, especially community-based, has a responsibility to help all learners develop a set of skills to participate healthily, ethically, and legally in the online world.

The variety of questions in the list below helps illustrate the breadth and complexity of some key considerations of digital citizenship:

  • What are my rights and responsibilities in an online environment?
  • What are my child’s rights and responsibilities in an online environment?
  • What is morally and ethically sound in a particular situation?
  • Do I know how to search for, evaluate, and attribute material on the web?
  • What is legal to download, use and share?

Being able to answer these, and other, questions for yourself will help shape your understandings and skills in the online environment to help ensure that you, your family, your colleagues, and your students, get the most out of working, learning and collaborating in an online environment.

Resources to help you find out more

There are many resources available to support you in your goal to stay safe online. Those listed below are ones you may like to follow up on.

  • Watch this overview of Andy's digital lifespan and, while you are watching ask yourself: How aware are you of your Digital Dossier?
  • This interactive cyber-safety resource, developed in Australia, is a great way to check your own knowledge about staying safe online. You could use the game in a collaborative environment, and add a competitive edge by asking users to share (and get better) scores. It was suggested that the game would be suitable for children from about year 4 to 5 upwards, and we would add, for adults too!
  • Covering how to avoid identity theft to defensive computing, Web Wise Washington have developed a series of guides.
  • If you are a teacher or education leader, you are likely to find something useful in the range of resources provided by Enabling e-Learning including discussion starters, practical steps, and school stories.

References

Groh, N. (2010). A Conceptual View of Digital Citizenship. Retrieved 30 August 2012 from http://www.mylgp.org.nz/guide/306/-a-conceptual-view-of-digital-citizenship/.
Mossberger, K., Tolbert, CJ., & McNeal, RS. (2008). Digital Citizenship: The Internet, Society, and Participation. The MIT Pres: Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Available online at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/13853600/Digital-Citizenship-the-Internetsociety-and-Participation-By-Karen-Mossberger-Caroline-J-Tolbert-and-Ramona-S-McNeal).
Ribble, M.S. (n.d.). Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship. Retrieved March 9 2013 from http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/Nine_Elements.html.
Ribble, M. S., Bailey, G.D., & Ross, T. W. (2004). Digital Citizenship: Addressing Appropriate Technology Behavior, Learning & Leading with Technology 32(1), p. 6-12.

Aug
29

Nostalgia and knowledge

I like this planet. I live on it along with my kids, family, and those that follow my tweets of wisdom via Twitter. In the 80s I watched Captain Planet. Those of you of a similar vintage to me might remember him. He was a cross between Spandau Ballet (the hairstyle anyway), Richard Simmons (spandex), and had a blue mullet — classic 80s.

Captain Planet worked with a multi-national, multi-cultural 1 team of young people called, “the Planeteers”, who defended the planet from environmental disasters with five magic rings given to them by the spirit of the earth (Whoopi Goldberg). Often these environmental disasters would be personified with names that identified the issue like Sly Sludge (Martin Sheen), Dr Blight (Meg Ryan), etc.

In situations that the Planeteers could not resolve alone, they would combine their powers to summon Captain Planet, who possessed all of their powers magnified, symbolising the premise that the combined efforts of a team are stronger than its individual parts. I liked that.

Inspired by Captain Planet, I did an Environmental Science paper in the 90s — our lecturer Jeanette Fitzsimons introduced us to concepts such as global warming and overpopulation, along with an appreciation of the finite nature of our planet — that, despite its immensity and beauty and ability to sustain our western lifestyles, is very limited. (Those magic rings would be handy about now.) These experiences coupled with spending a lot of time at kaupapa Māori hui and wananga meant that I often wondered about these issues, not only from a Māori perspective, but also from the perspectives of other peoples from similar and not so similar cultural backgrounds.

My environmental bullet points of the 80s and 90s can be summed up as follows:

  • Spandex and blue mullets get exponentially un-hip as the years go by.
  • We need to have environmental advocates/leaders/heroes of those perspectives, particularly at the local level
  • There are different ways of understanding the natural world around. Societies from all parts of the world possess rich sets of experience, understanding, and explanation — particularly those with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings.
  • Personifying our problems into easy villain caricatures is handy, but harder when you’re focussing, let’s say, our collective consumer behaviour, or something like overpopulation, which is a wider societal issue that requires collective responsibility, as opposed to taking out some B-grade bad guy. (If life was only that easy.)

Different ways of understanding the environment

One of the great things I’ve been able to do as a part of my working life is to visit and stay with different indigenous peoples in, sometimes, quite remote locations, working on supporting different Indigenous Knowledge 2 projects, and, occasionally, they come and stay at my house. Earlier this year I had Victor Steffensen stay. Victor is a traditional fire practitioner, using fire as a land management tool. I remember thinking to myself, this would be great for some of our students to do — some comparative learning, comparing concepts of conservation with our own.

The Indigenous Fire Workshop – Cape York from Living Knowledge Place on Vimeo.

Here in Aotearoa we refer to this type of knowledge (which has its basis in the arrival of our tipuna and its ongoing development) as Matauranga Māori. A definition from Landcare Research:

Mātauranga Māori can be defined as ‘the knowledge, comprehension, or understanding of everything visible and invisible existing in the universe’, and is often used synonymously with wisdom. In the contemporary world, the definition is usually extended to include present–day, historic, local, and traditional knowledge; systems of knowledge transfer and storage; and the goals, aspirations and issues from an indigenous perspective.3

Connecting with advocates

There are environmental heroes in our communities. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of them.

As some of you will know, our long fin tuna are now endangered. This important issue was the focus of an interesting documentary called Saving Tuna (you can watch it on the Māori TV site) It highlights the work of Kaitiaki Bill Kerrison who has been helping eels to bypass river obstacles by guiding them into traps, and transporting them up or downstream by hand, and releasing them into tributaries along the Rangitaiki. There, they grow up to 1.5m long and can stay for up to 10 years before wanting to return to their ocean spawning grounds.

Another example is some whanaunga of mine from up in the Nōta, Ahipara — Reuben Taipari from Te Rarawa, and Heeni Hoterene from Ngāti Hine. I interviewed Rueben for a resource that I’m working on that looks at how the moon phases, along with seasonal changes in the natural world, would, among other things, inform planting and traditional food gathering practises. Passionate about the North becoming self-sufficient in terms of food, he also supports projects that encourage people to use land and sea sustainably, ensuring that it is nurtured, as it provides sustenance to whānau and hapū.

My point here is that often these people are in our communities, it is just a matter of finding them and connecting them to the teaching and learning of our students.

Incorporating Indigenous Knowledge into teaching and learning

UNESCO has a number of publications that can be requested as hard copy or downloaded as PDF:

On TKI there are a number of resources that use science as a lens to incorporate a Māori world view:

Have you heard of LEARNZ virtual field trips? They are a great source and learning experience for students and teacher:

LEARNZ promotional video from LEARNZ on Vimeo.

CORE’s LEARNZ virtual field trip programme provides opportunities for students to interact with experts across a wide range of sectors including environment, conservation, engineering, science, social science, and the arts. In 2014, conservation-based field trips in partnership with agencies such as DOC and regional councils include:

Footnotes:

1 The young people came from all youths across the globe: Kwame from Africa, Wheeler from North America, Linka from the Soviet Union (hands up if you remember the USSR), Gi from Asia, and Ma-Ti from the Amazon (Ma-Ti was my favourite — I had a similar haircut a number of times in my childhood).

2 Local and indigenous knowledge refers to the understandings, skills and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings. For rural and indigenous peoples, local knowledge informs decision-making about fundamental aspects of day-to-day life. This knowledge is integral to a cultural complex that also encompasses language, systems of classification, resource use practices, social interactions, ritual and spirituality’. These unique ways of knowing are important facets of the world’s cultural diversity, and provide a foundation for locally-appropriate sustainable development. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/priority-areas/links/

Aug
26

eFellowship: they’ll let anyone in — ‘e’ isn’t just for e-learning

Background

The CORE Education eFellowship is based on a strong belief that action research can drive innovative practice. The annual programme, run since 2004, supports up to ten teachers from early years, primary, and/or secondary sectors to be released from the classroom to conduct an inquiry with academic support and mentoring. Over 80 educators are now part of the ever-growing network of eFellows.

The 2014 eFellows are (L-R): Tim Gander, Anne-Louise Robertson, Marnel Van der Spuy, Vicki Hagenaars, Bec Power, Rowan Taigel, and Ben Britton.

CORE eFellows 2014

CORE eFellows 2014 at their first Masterclass in Auckland (L-R): Tim Gander, Anne-Louise Robertson, Marnel Van der Spuy, Vicki Hagenaars, Bec Power, Rowan Taigel, and Ben Britton.

The lurker

Since 2014’s seven eFellows were selected back in October 2013, I have had the pleasure of lurking about at some of their masterclasses (face-to-face meetings). As a bewildered outsider to the fellowship, I observed and conversed with these fine folk in order that one day I might tell the story of their first year as eFellows. Although their first year is not yet over, and their action research will continue even after they share their discoveries at the Ulearn14 conference this October, I thought it might be timely to share with others what this eFellowship thing looks like. This story is for those who, like me, might have wondered: What does the ‘e’ stand for?

What does the eFellowship look like (to me)?

I guess the first thing I’d say is it’s not actually about teachers. While there are definitely some pleasant by-products of being selected for the fellowship (networking, career, and presenting opportunities) it is the learner/ākonga who is at the centre of every story, presentation, debate, discussion, and collaborative Google doc I witness. Voice, diversity, new forms of knowledge and identity are just some of the terms-most-treasured I hear coming from the mouths of these educators. At the first masterclass in Auckland, I recall a palpable desire to transform education — to extend that word ‘education’ into something that means ‘learning which meets the needs of all learners’. I get tingles, my heart beats faster as I tap away at my keyboard, trying to capture the weight of that yearning in the room, and the hope and possibility that go along with it. Tim would later sum up my feeling in this blog post he wrote after masterclass number two, in Christchurch: “Suddenly the thought pops into your head that you know the reason behind why we exist in this world, and as quickly as you feel like you are going to solve all of humanity's problems, it disappears…”

Tim Gander at work on eFellows project

Tim Gander surrounded by the enormity of his task. Wellington masterclass, the last face-to-face before research is presented.

A safe place to wonder

Wherever the eFellows meet this year, virtually or face-to-face, their room is a room of wonderings — even the facilitators and experts share theirs with the group. Louise Taylor, who co-leads the eFellowship programme with John Fenaughty, emphasises that the programme “will be guided by discussions within the group, with contributions from the fellows as much as from the programme leaders” with John adding that “openness and vulnerability [are] crucial starting points for the growth that will take place this year”. Doubts and anxieties are acknowledged, and everyone understands that they have the support of everyone else in the ‘wondering room’.

The eFellows are, afterall, only human: “The more I research, the more I discover I don't know! Will I be able to manage teaching full-time, looking after my 5-month-old baby, and embark on an e-learning fellowship inquiry project? Have I bitten off more than I can chew?” writes Rowan in October 2013.

And yet, they are all happily venturing into some uncomfortable territory: Marnel aims to shed some light on the dark spot that is current research into Modern Learning Pedagogy in New Entrant Environments; Ben is boldly (in his own words) “sailing off in his own little boat” to the nascent world of 3D printing; and Bec was only 15 days into her new role as Deputy Principal at Tatahai Coast School when she attended her first masterclass.

I am in awe of these educators, who have pledged to be more critical and questioning; to maintain an objective perspective; and interpret their data faithfully and honestly (says Anne in this blog post) as well as being open to the criticism of their peers to be challenged in their thinking.

Anne at work

Anne sketches out her early thoughts at the first masterclass in Auckland.

So, this isn’t going to be ‘e’ for easy then…

Not easy, no, but this group don’t take themselves too seriously, and they’re really fun. This somehow makes their task seem less daunting. It’s nice to have someone to laugh with when you realise just how vast the education landscape is — how much there is still left to explore. Perhaps the ‘e’ of eFellows stands for exploration?

eFellowship group masterclass activity

Louise, Rowan and Bec share in a light-hearted lunch during the third masterclass in Wellington.

Vicki Hagenaars, another of the 2014 seven, wears an ‘evolve’ bracelet, each charm denoting a part of her life’s journey. Cook Strait, Canterbury, Ohakune are there, as well as a koru for the eFellowship. Could the ‘e’ stand for ‘evolution’? Do the eFellows see education as forever on its own continuum of development? Perhaps the 80+ fellows are people who envision education as something that should excite, engage, enable, be equal, encourage, empower, entrust, expand….

Yes, I think the ‘e’ in eFellows stands for all of these things, and more.

What about the ‘e’ for electronic?

I can’t say I learnt all that much about the ‘e’ for electronic from my time with the eFellows — or at least, that wasn’t the most rousing part of their masterclasses. It was their passion and the stories of their learners that gave me goosebumps. The wondering that had led them here, that overrode any tentativeness they had about applying, and spurs them on to uncover more and better ways to help their learners.

If you’re a fellow wonderer; if you have a strong desire to see positive change in your school, kura, and learners; if your ākongo are at the centre of what you want to do in your practice…then the eFellowship is definitely for you. Educators and kaiako, apply here.

Snapshots of the 2014 eFellows' journey so far. Serious work, and serious fun.

Links to further information:

Aug
22

Ten Trends 2014: Maker culture

Trend 7: Maker culture

CORE's Ten Trends for 2014 have been published. This post considers the seventh of these trends: Maker culture. We publish posts on one of the trends approximately each month. You are encouraged to comment or provide supporting links.

Explanation

Think of learning at its earliest stage: a baby learning to play with blocks or manipulate objects in three-dimensional space. It’s something our human brains are hard-wired to do. Researchers like Dewey and Piaget talk about constructivism — suggesting that learning is an active process in which people actively construct knowledge from their experience in the world. People don’t get ideas; they make them.

This idea of making, of building, of constructing has a strong basis in research. Active learning increases the rate of learning faster than passive learning, Even just watching others build or make things fires up parts of our brain that are left untouched by passive learning.

Drivers

While the maker movement has been around in many forms, it’s only now that we’re starting to see technology catch up with our aspirations for a powerful, active, authentic education.

Last week we broke the bracket that holds up the towel rail in our bathroom. The first thing I thought was not, Oh, we’ve broken it. It was, ‘I wish we had a 3D printer’, because I could scan the broken part with the camera on my phone and print a replacement. And it’s conceivable that there will be some form of 3D printer in many homes in the foreseeable future.

Is your Nan having trouble plugging the jug in because of her arthritis? There’s your year 7 technology project. Learning about insects for science? Design and print a bug hotel that you can attach to a tree or a fence for insects to live in. It’s all made possible by the magic of 3D printing, and a range of 3D modelling software tools — many of which are open source, and able to be installed on any computer learners have access to.

Another driver of the maker movement has been the emergence of a powerful suite of small electronic microprocessors that you can programme with a bit of code. Often they snap together with little extras, like light or movement sensors or Bluetooth and wireless modules, and all of a sudden you’ve got something you can attach a solar panel and a rechargeable battery to, and you’ve got a completely self-contained, internet-connected data-gathering tool. So what do you want to know? How many sunlight hours there have been each day this month? What the maximum temperature has been every day this week? The Arduino and the Raspberry Pi might sound like funny names, but they are essentially tiny, extremely affordable computers that kids can add onto like Lego. This freedom and creativity is right at the heart of the maker movement.

Impact

Art, technology, design, music, film, science all come crashing together in the maker movement. Want to sew a circuit into the hoodie you wear when you ride your bike home so that a arrow made of LED lights on your back indicates which way you’re turning? Piece of cake. What about creating an interactive sculpture that changes colour depending on the kind of music you play in the room? No trouble.

So what’s the impact of all this possibility on learning? For one thing we've got more chance to unleash student creativity than ever before. And we’ve got the chance to really connect our learning to the real world for another. We can solve real world problems and give students the kind of voice and confidence

Implications

Our learners have the ability to shape and bend all sorts of technology to meet their needs — we need to make sure we’re giving them plenty of opportunities to do it. Design thinking and design processes need to be central to our planning, not only to meet learners’ needs but also to give them opportunities to meet others’ needs. We can start small:

  • Grab a little electronics starter kit that doesn’t need soldering skills or even a good understanding of circuits, and see what your kids can do with it.
  • Talk to your principal about getting a 3D printer
  • Download something like Sketchup so kids can start playing around.

Because, it’s this playfulness that’s at the heart of the maker movement.

Examples and links:

For more about the Ten Trends:

Aug
20

Unpacking 3D in Chromebook

I don't know about you, but I've always found it hard to get my head around stuff like

F(x,y)=x*y^3-y*x^3

As a boy, I'd chew my pencil and stare out of the window and wish I was playing with my kite or riding my bicycle. With dreams of being a navigator I would need not just to pass maths, I'd need an A.

Easty (we called him that because his brain had gone west) failed to capture my imagination. The chalk squeaked on the blackboard, and some days tears would well up as I tried to get to grips with it all. Mr Kirkwood's class was a slight improvement, we plotted parabolas on graph paper. We weren't sure what parabolas were for, but at least there was a physical manifestation, a drawing on a piece of paper. Not until I was 17, and attending sea school, did it all start to make some sense, because now there was a globe, and angles subtended at the centre of the earth, and arcs described on the surface of the earth. Arcs along which you could steam a ship.

But now, in second childhood, I am happy playing on my Chromebook. I have just grabbed 3D Function Graphics from the Chrome Web Store. It's free, so I didn't even need to think about it. Click. Done. It's obvious how it works. All I need now are some cool 3D functions (if I was at school my maths teacher would be writing them on the board). In another tab I go to Google and put in the obvious search string "cool 3d functions" and I land on the Physics Forum page 'Cool 3-D functions for graphing' by LPHY.

I try a few – you just enter the function in a text box at the top of the page – and the one I like the best is

F(x,y)=cos(abs(x)+abs(y))

It makes an object that looks like this

3D Function Graphics - 1

I wonder… what would it look like if I … put this?
 
F(x,y)=cos(abs(x*1.4)+abs(y*1.4))

Wow, look what's happened to the corners!

3D Function Graphics - 2

Now, I didn't tell you that another thing I've found in the Chrome Web Store is Pixlr Editor. I'm wondering if I could turn my object into a character. There's an 'export as image' feature in 3D Function Graphics, so it's easy to get these 2D snapshots of my object (viewed from any angle) Pixlr Editor. I try a few filters, and then hit on this one… that's one mean duck. Quack! Quack!

3D Function Graphics 3

Since discovering 3D Function Graphics I'm taking a lot more interest in functions. All this fun has put me in mind of Ed Catmull, the brains behind many of the algorithms that powered Pixar and gave us Toy Story, and Finding Nemo, and Cars. It seems that all those numbers can be an enormous amount of fun. Serious fun. Hard fun.

I think what I'm trying to say is this: When you see a student idly playing around in their Chromebook, fiddling about with something, don't be in too much of a hurry to pull them back on task. They may be learning something very important and personal to them.

Number 6 of CORE Education's 10 Trends 2013 was 'Thinking 3D'. I think you can unpack that in many ways.

Aug
14

UDL at the dentist

“To promote understanding of information, concepts, relationships, and ideas, it is critical to provide multiple ways for learners to approach them”. David Rose.

An unexpected learning experience

Photo taken by Chrissie at dentist

A UDL experience: My dentist simply explained what was happening in my mouth highlighting each tooth with different coloured lines and marks.

A couple of weeks ago, Scott Turner, a Wellington Endodentist described how he was going to clean around and possibly retrieve the broken drill piece lost deep in my root canal by my dentist.

At the end of the consultation, he asked if I had any questions.

“Actually I do”, I said. “Do you think I could take a photo? The way you have explained what is going to happen when you work on my tooth perfectly modelled something called Universal Design for Learning (UDL). You have just modelled the principle of offering multiple representations to support understanding. I’d like to write about it.

A regular part of any trip to the dentist, is the inevitable post procedure chat, the bit where they talk about what they did and what is going to happen next. As fear is my trusty companion in a dental surgery, my ability to listen is significantly inhibited. In fact all my energy and attention is generally consumed by trying to hold myself together until I am out the door.

The chat with Scott, looked like it was going to go the same way. He pulled up a photo of my tooth on his computer screen. I in turn moved into auto-pilot and began singing, “la, la, la” inside my head to block out the expected medicalese and to distract myself from the enlarged image of my filling-filled mouth.

To my surprise, Scott didn’t launch into the technicalities of the procedure. Instead he gave me a walk through of each tooth on the screen, its integrity and said things were in great shape. No-one has ever said anything positive about my teeth and hooked my attention. He also usefully connected his storytelling directly to the examination he had made of my mouth. He linked specifically to the way he had tapped here and prodded there and I could feel myself actually connecting to some kind of shared experience rather than disassociating myself.

The practical and effective use of digital tools

Scott then introduced some x-rays and opened them in a programme that looked like Microsoft Paint. Again rather than launching into details of the medical procedure, he orientated me to my own mouth. It was a bit like being introduced to a new landscape. As Scott introduced each feature, he highlighted it with different coloured lines and marks, as in the photo. He made no assumptions that I knew what anything was. He consistently linked his storytelling back to the photo and my shared experience of the examination. His use of the technology was absolutely fluid and functional. It was actually a joy to watch.

By the time Scott introduced the nitty gritty of the actual procedure, I felt almost confident. He described each stage of the intervention with words and by drawing and where applicable made analogies to ordinary things. At the end of section of the “chat” he would pause and check if I understood and for once I actually felt like I did.

So why the strong UDL connection?

Multiple means of representation: Engagement - Stimulate motivation and sustained enthusiasm for learning; Representation - Present information and content in different ways to support understanding; Action and expression - Offer options and support so everyone can create, learn, and share.

Multiple means of representation

The principle “Multiple means of representation”, one of the three principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is about the need to offer students a range of options and supports to increase their understanding.

In the text, UDL Theory and Practice, David Rose reflects:

"Learners' ability to perceive, interpret, and understand information is dependent upon the media and methods through which it is presented. For learning environments to support varied learners in all of these recognition processes, three broad kinds of options for representation are needed: options for perception; options for language, mathematical expressions, and symbols; and options for comprehension. A learning context with these options presents few barriers, regardless of the variations in biology and background of the students."

As the student, in this context, Scott offered me options in each of the three recognition processes. Interestingly, he probably does that for every client. He takes a universal approach, building into his way of working options to support understanding. He plans for the diverse needs of clients at the outset.

As an unknown client and one who brings a swag of negative expectations to the environment, the learning experience was quite honestly inspiring. I couldn’t help but make connections to teaching and learning and to the potential UDL has as framework for the inclusive flexible design of environments and the innovative use of technologies.

Useful links:

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