May
28

Student data and privacy

big data

A panel discusses what data is collected by schools, and who owns it.

One of the trends that has been evident for some time, and continues to develop in education, is the collection of “big data” and the use of learning analytics: the collection, analysis, and reporting of large datasets relating to learners and their contexts. As more and more learning activities take place digitally, and as more and more data is gathered about learner progress, we have the opportunity to be more evidence-based in how we support learners.

One of the implications is that there are issues around who uses the data: are learners or their families empowered to access and reflect on the progress that they are making?

During Privacy Week 2015, CORE eLearning and Future Focused Facilitator Andrew Cowie hosted a panel discussion covering some of the issues associated with data ownership. The discussion included the right to privacy, the right to access that data, and the long-term implications for schools, students and their families.

Andrew’s two guests were Katrine Evans, Assistant Privacy Commissioner, and Sean Lyons, Chief Technology Officer at Netsafe.

The panel acknowledged that, as well as the need for schools to collect data on behalf of the Ministry of Education, student data increasingly includes records of progress and achievement, work samples, individual student’s digital portfolios, school video records, and images. Rather than any one person owning this information, the school, families, and students all have rights to the data collected.

In some circumstances, schools use learning analytics to interpret the data sets to help predict students’ future behaviour and learning potential. Katrine points out the likelihood of students using their increasing awareness of the range of data being collected about them, to question these predictions that schools may be making about them.

The panel also discusses online behaviour, where data is being collected, and where students are allowing information relating to online behaviour to be obtained by agreeing to terms of service that they are unlikely to have read.

This video is part 1 of the two-part discussion on student data and privacy. You can also find out more about the learning analytics trend, watch more videos on big data and learning analytics, or check out the links in CORE’s Bundlr collection.

Challenges

  • What data are you gathering in your centres and schools?
  • How is it being stored and managed?
  • Are families and students able to access this data?
  • How are you supporting students to understand their rights in terms of privacy, understand what data is being collected about them online, and how they can access this information?

May
26

Virtual learning: a springboard to restoring the broken bond between children and the outdoors

Kids in forest

Growing up in the 60s and 70s

Our local stream was a quick five-minute ride from home. In these pre-mountain bike days our 3 speeds made the rough track to the bridge hugely exciting. The stream was a wilderness of old willows, a shifting riverbed and a busy road bridge. For much of my early adolescence I played, swam, camped, cooked over fires, fished, fought and generally mucked about in this wilderness. My parents, mostly unaware of what we were up to, didn’t care – provided we were home for tea.

That was growing up in the sixties and seventies. A free-range childhood. We didn’t know about stranger danger, endangered species, ozone depletion or climate change. We did know every nook and cranny of that streambed.

Growing up today — it’s different

Today our children have different experiences. They spend more time IndoorsThey do more organised sport in human-created environments of asphalt and turf. Our children are well informed about the decline of natural values; our ever-increasing list of endangered species and habitats at risk. Nature has become a doom and gloom story.

Nature-deficit an alarming trend

Author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods explores the divide between children and the outdoors. He calls the lack of nature in the lives of today's wired generation, nature-deficit. He attributes nature-deficit to some of the most disturbing childhood trends such as the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.

It is true that for all of human history children have spent much of their time outside either playing or being in nature. It is part of what and who we are – we’re genetically wired to need nature. Louv argues that treasured moments of wonder in nature, such as discovering what exists on the underside of a rock or hearing the wind in the leaves, are a rich source of spiritual growth.

While better informed, our children are being put off nature

In recent years I have taken interest in this so-called nature deficit disorder. I’ve wondered about what it is to be a Kiwi; the relationship we have with our natural heritage; what we think about 100% Pure; and what the separation of a large proportion of our children from the natural world will mean for New Zealand and Planet Earth.

Our students are arguably better informed about their global environment than ever before. Their awareness of the natural world is largely through television and the Internet; their awareness more an abstraction than a personal reality. The message delivered inadvertently through schools and the media is that the outdoors is dangerous. Regulations and expectations of safety make playgrounds too safe. There is little room for creativity and expression. Our children’s environment is increasingly de-natured and their perceptions of the natural world are devoid of personal experiences.

What does this mean for the likes of virtual field trips? The answer is surprising.

So perhaps you’re thinking this is all a bit rich coming from the Project Director of a virtual field trip programme? Well it could be if student involvement in virtual field trips (VFTs) resulted in less time spent outdoors. The evidence suggests otherwise. Teachers are telling us that students are inspired during VFTs by getting to know people who work in the outdoors. They are motivated to learn more about conservation and want to get involved. The student experience with environmental VFTs is creating a desire to get out and do stuff in the outdoors.

Look at some of the feedback we’ve received:

The children were enthralled by this trip. They all want to go and walk the Routeburn for real now! A great way to 'hook' the children in. So interactive and 'real'.
–  
Joanne Mortimer from Weston School

Students found it very engaging and enjoyed being able to go on the LEARNZ website at home as well.  One student and their family is now going to go and walk the Routeburn Track next school holidays.
– 
Te Whaea Ireland from Karoro School

They developed their knowledge of pest threats in NZ and also developed a positive attitude to how they can help with campaigns like Project Crimson & Living Legends. LEARNZ is an excellent programme.
– 
Philip Lightbourne from Kairanga School

The biggest benefit was being able to relate to it on a personal level and also to be able to follow up on it in our local community. 
– 
Jane Pearson from Hira School

My students enjoyed it and learnt so much. They were inspired and did their own projects on kauri dieback.
–  Julia Kippen from St Mark's School (Pakuranga

LEARNZ is wonderful for those students who learn in different ways e.g. listening (and they can refer back to recordings to check information). We are now interested in "adopting" a local reserve and planting some natives, including kauri.
– 
Debra Sheeran from Pukenui School

We also followed up with a visit in our local area to a native bush stand.
– Vicki Karetai from Brooklyn School Motueka

We are now going to visit the local bush and observe our trees.
– 
Sharlene Tornquist from Kaiwaka School

Virtual field trips could be a vehicle for a real-life appreciation of nature

We haven’t designed our VFTs to necessarily achieve outdoor activity outcomes. But why don’t we?

The evidence is that LEARNZ VFTs have the capability to motivate large numbers of students. So what if we placed more emphasis on action outcomes from our VFTs? What if we partnered with organisations that could broker relationships between schools and local environmental projects? What if virtual field trips became a platform for energising and mobilising the imagination and spirit of young people? And what if there was a campaign to soak up that energy where young people could get involved with nature.

Your comments welcome

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts about nature deficit. How can we restore that age-old relationship between people and the planet? If you've seen your students inspired by a LEARNZ field trip, what were the outcomes? How might we organise ourselves to harness that inspiration and get kids outdoors?

May
21

Tautua nei mo sou manuia a taeao — Serve now for a better tomorrow

Ruta presenting

O le Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa. The celebration of Samoan language week will take place from 24 May to 30 May 2015. Learning a new language gives us new insights into new ways of thinking, and shared understandings of cultural beliefs and practices.

The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs is working closely with the Human Rights Commission and FAGASA to promote Samoan Language Week activities. The theme for the Samoan language week is “Tautua nei mo sou manuia a taeao — Serve now for a better tomorrow".
According to the Human Rights Commission website, “Samoan language week was first promoted by Radio Niu FM as part of a series of Pacific language weeks leading up to Māori language week. In 2007 it was promoted in schools by the Fa’alapotopotoga mo le A’oa’oina o le Gagana Samoa i Aotearoa (FAGASA).

FAGASA is an independent organisation with the aim to nurture and promote Samoan language in New Zealand.The Samoan language week is now celebrated in New Zealand, Australia, United States of America and Samoan communities across the world.

Why learn Samoan in schools?

New Zealand is a country in the South Pacific. Samoan people make up nearly half of New Zealand’s Pasifika population and Samoan language is the third most commonly spoken language in New Zealand. Our society progressively reflects a diversity of languages and cultures. The Pasifika Education Plan 2013-2017 vision is to see “Five out of five Pasifika learners participating, engaging and achieving in education secure in their identities, languages and cultures and contributing fully to Aotearoa New Zealand’s social, cultural and economic well-being.”

Language is a key element of culture and helps us give meaning to things we use and create in everyday life. Learning Samoan language and culture empowers Samoan children to know they are of Samoan heritage, to uphold their sense of identity and belonging, and to advance the knowledge of their language and culture.

If children whose first language is Samoan can maintain that language, the development of their knowledge, and confidence in their cultural heritage and language will be enriched. It is important that Samoan children and children who are interested in learning the Samoan language and culture are more involved and take part in activities within schools, the community, church and family. As they become parents they will be able to pass on the language and culture to their fanau.

Also, for children whose home language is Samoan, maintaining their first language will enrich their learning of English. Research says that children with English as their second language are assisted to high levels of achievement across the curriculum when their first language is used as a language of instruction (Ministry of Education,1996). Learning Samoan will enable children to function more effectively in New Zealand society and the global world, as well as in Samoan contexts.

My personal experience in Samoa and New Zealand and the change in society

Growing up in Samoa where the language is spoken and used at all times has enriched my personal and professional journey. I was immersed and nurtured in the Samoan language at home, school, church and the village. I was exposed to and developed my use of Samoan language in different everyday situations — for example, church, cultural events, family gatherings, weddings, and daily life. Now, as an adult living in New Zealand, I am often given a role of speaking in different educational and personal contexts. I am expected to deliver speeches using Samoan language that will suit any formal or informal situation, and I am able to do this confidently. I always open my speech in front of Palagi using my mother tongue, almost like a weapon; it gives me strength and confidence before I begin using my second language.

I often think back to the place where I was first employed when my husband and I moved from Auckland to Christchurch in 1982. My Samoan friends and I were called into the office and given a warning not to speak Samoan while we were working. It was considered to be very rude and disrespectful for Palagi. I felt so small. My own identity, language, and culture were squashed. I couldn’t figure out why we were considered to be rude, but I found out that Palagi didn't understand what we were talking about.

I guess our society has changed dramatically over the last decade. People are accepting and respect the colourful identities, languages, and cultures that people bring, adding to the rich diversity in our world.

Who are the learners of the Samoan language?

  •  Learners of Samoan language who bring with them previous language experiences to early childhood, schools and tertiary.
  • Learners who have some prior experience, but don’t come from Samoan-speaking family
  •  Learners who have little or no knowledge of Samoan language and culture
  • Learners who are interested in learning Pasifika languages
  • Learners who are studying and participating in Samoan language courses
  • Learners with special needs, as it should be an inclusive programme, for all.

How do early childhood services promote and foster Samoan language?

My research colleague and I were visiting a Samoan centre recently, and we noticed two girls were at the writing table chanting the story of Noah and the Ark in Samoan language. What was fascinating about this experience was the way these girls chanted and exchanged questions and answers about Noah. They were very confident and spoke Samoan fluently. Both of them were New Zealand-born Samoans. This example reflects how teachers and children in Aoga Amata use and maintain the Samoan language and culture when families attend the service.

There are many ways to foster and promote Samoan language in early childhood and school environments, including:

  • The learning environment as a third teacher, where language and culture are visible for children to revisit and promote discussion about their learning experiences.
  • Invite Samoan families to share their cultural knowledge as this will add depth to the programme and also strengthen partnerships with families.
  • Integrate and celebrate Samoan language as an integral part of their daily programme and routines.
  • Use natural resources, stories about Samoan culture, posters, games.
  • Teachers and children visiting the community and celebrating cultural events.
  • Support the development of programmes that are responsive to Samoan community needs and projects.
  • Invite Samoan cultural groups to the centre and invite children to join in and have fun.
  • Use Samoan language through greetings, farewells, simple phrases, songs and dances.
  • Provide Samoan language learning opportunities for teachers and children from non Samoan speaking backgrounds.
  • Samoan language should be used in assessment.

“Tautua nei mo sou manuia a taeao — serve now for a better tomorrow”

The  Samoan language week, from 24 May to 30 May, is celebrated across sectors from early childhood services to tertiary institutions, government departments, churches, libraries, families and  communities.

“Tautua nei mo sou manuia a taeao” — serve now for a better tomorrow. This is a challenge for us all that we need to reflect, re-examine, re-evaluate our pedagogical teaching practices to ensure that Samoan language and culture is enacted and woven through the curriculum rather than just a one week celebration every year.

In Samoan culture, when children speak the Samoan language, parents feel a sense of pride for their children. In the past, most Pasifika families believed that speaking and teaching their children in English opened the door to success. This approach has slowly changed where parents and families are using and promoting Samoan language at home, church, school and the community with their fanau.

A leai se gagana ,ua leai se aganu’u, a leai se aganu’u ona po lea ole nu’u.”
When you lose your language, you lose your culture, darkness descends on the village. (Fanaafi, 1996, p.1)

Further information and suggestions

For further reading and information about Samoan language you can visit the links that have practical examples to support you, children, and families in your education services. You will find a recent article in the Education Gazette about a preschool that is participating in the Pasifika Leadership programme, and how they embraced, celebrated and enhanced Samoan language and culture in their service.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Talofa lava – Hello/Greetings
Mālo le soifua – Hello/Good health
O ā mai oe? – How are you?
Manuia fa’afetai – Very well thank you
Manuia le aso – Have a great day
Tofā soifua – Good-bye

Ia manuia le Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa. Fa’afetai lava!

May
19

Early childhood education, 10 Trends, and a not-so-little story of action

I have worked in and around the field of teacher professional development for many years now. What holds me there is not so much the positive feedback and enthusiasm I often sense at the end of a session (although that is nice too), but the little stories of what happens next. I say ‘little’ because I think the tellers of these stories often underestimate how significant and rewarding they are for me to hear.

A very significant ‘little’ story of applying the Ten Trends

The Supervisor and Curriculum Leader of an early childhood service I have worked with over several years (Liz) shared with me one such story just recently. Liz had received the CORE newsletter with the 2015 Ten Trends. Instead of by-passing the newsletter as she had done in the past thinking it was for schools and teachers more techie than herself, she watched the first video. She found herself ‘being both refreshed and challenged and am now thrilled to be able to confidently say, I am beginning to understand my role in this area’ (digital technologies).

In fact, what she went on to say had little to do with digital technologies and far more to do with her pedagogy. The messages that had caught her attention were, the need for teachers to:

  • think about whose interest is being served;
  • think about how to ensure the needs of the learner are met; and
  • re-imagine their role.

Liz applied these ideas to something very specific and contained within their programme: e-portfolios.

E-portfolios were introduced as a means of documenting assessment 18 months prior and had been received enthusiastically by teachers and families alike. ‘We just love the increased input we get from parents’, was the motto I often heard when visiting Liz’s early childhood centre.

However, the Ten Trends had caused Liz to think about just whose interests were being served by their e-portfolios. She found that, unlike the paper version, most children rarely got to revisit their digital learning stories and assessments while at the centre. This was because, despite being a centre characterised by high-quality interactions and practices, when teachers brought technology into the children’s area it tended to look like this:

computer separate from interaction

Liz, who, in the past, has grappled with the inclusion of digital technologies in her early childhood context, told me how the idea of re-imagining her role suddenly made sense in this context. Instead of being, as she described it, ‘the knowledge holder and device protector’, she saw that she needed to become the orchestrator of children’s access and agency for their e-portfolios.

The result is that the children Liz teaches now have more opportunities to develop their adaptive expertise as they make meaning of their experiences across different modes and texts.

Here is an example of Shaun (two years, ten months). He is revisiting a music session that he participated in that is documented by photos and video. When he has access to his e-portfolio on the iPad, notice how he finds himself and others in the video, and then appears to be making links between the digital text and the photos in his paper-based portfolio. This would not have been possible without Liz taking up the challenges she found in the 10 Trends.

Ten Trend challenges applied.

Concluding thoughts

Returning to where I started with this blog post, there are some very big reasons why this little story is worth sharing.

  • Liz is curious. While she leads a centre where children’s interests are valued and drive learning opportunities, she chose not to dismiss a school-based example and accompanying message about personalisation of learning with  ‘we are doing that already’
  • Liz is strategic. Had Liz applied the question of whose interests are being served to the centre more generally, she would have had ample justification for a ‘we are doing that already’ response. I think the fact that she honed in on a specific area helped her to make good use of the messages in the 10 Trends to interrogate practice.
  • Liz values professional learning. Perhaps the finest thing about this story is that, while I am contracted as a facilitator and mentor for this centre in 2015, I didn’t suggest she delve into the Ten Trends; she found and applied them herself.

Which leaves just one question unanswered. Why, therefore, do I find her story so rewarding for me professionally? It is quite simple really. She is a teacher who acts on professional learning for the benefit of children and families.

May
14

Keepin’ it Reo on Twitter

Nā @temihinga #tereo

dog

It’s simple and really easy, just how I like it! You learn a new word or phrase in te reo Māori, like “manahau”, which means to be elated, be happy. Then you use manahau in a commonly used phrase and match it with an image that best encapsulates its meaning,  (preferably with a furry, four-legged subject because, as we know, animals rule us all. Next you AddText it, download it and tweet it with the hashtag #tereo.

This is what I started doing about two years ago to promote te reo Māori in a positive way, normalising our language on social media where it can reach people that I would have otherwise never had got a chance to engage with. And it’s working. My virtual PRN — personal/professional reo network on Tīhau (Twitter) — are an eclectic bunch of educators, artists, media, politicians, and the socially conscious, but mostly importantly, many of them  are passionate about learning and sharing te reo Māori knowledge.

I’m especially enjoying being part of someone’s te reo Māori journey, providing answers or ideas where I can, and reading their blogs, which are really useful to a lot of learners of a new language. PRNs like Director of ICT at St. Andrew’s College in Christchurch @samuelmcneill with his blog at korero.kiwi.

Adventures in te reo

There are other Tweeps who I constantly interact with that impress me with their enthusiasm: @SolHenare @GrahamOliver8 @eMPOWERedNZ @FiNZ63 @macgibbons, to name a few.

The most common requests are for translations for hype words, proverbs, or messages that can easily side track a pedantic linguist like me for hours. I may refer Tweeps to various online resources, or create some of my own Kuputaka Reo Hangarau with input from a lot of PRNs. Sometimes, however, you just need to share the nonsensical pōrangi (craziness) like “ngelfie” to remind ourselves that learning a language is tough, but a crack up as well.

Crazy tweets

I’m totally all for those who are giving te reo Māori a go wherever they can, and the more public it is, the more normal it becomes. It’s definitely most appreciated, like the amazing efforts of the people at Whitebait Restaurant in Wellington.

Example tweets

And I’m always on the lookout for our official language. Reo spotting is better than the first sip of my morning trim flat white. Once spotted, it’s tweeted!

Here are some top online te reo Māori resources:

One of my favourite te reo Māori bilingual web tools: The Māori Macron Restoration Service.

My latest fun online activity is to create a Rotarota Kūkara #googlepoetry by typing the first two words of a common sentence structure into Google search and see what te reo Māori poetry magic it creates.

Google search for te reo words

Try yours out and tweet me with our hashtag #tereo. And that’s how I keep it reo on Tīhau.

Nāku nui nei me ngaku tīhau!

May
12

Influencing inclusive practice: Universal Design for Learning in teaching and facilitation

Inclusive designPhoto: © Copyright wfmillar and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Chrissie Butler
Chrissie Butler

Allanah King
Allanah King

Introducing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to colleagues and supporting its use in our inclusive practice is a big part of my work at CORE. Recently Allanah King and I had an hour or two in transit together. Allanah is a Learning with Digital Technologies facilitator, classroom teacher and a passionate advocate of the difference technologies can make in learning. We got talking about how UDL is continuing to influence the way she works. Here’s an edited Q and A of our discussion.

Chrissie: So Allanah, how is UDL is influencing the way you think about planning learning?

Allanah: I think it has made me much more aware of things I do that might get in the way of other people’s learning. So for example it makes me think about barriers hidden in the way I teach or facilitate, or barriers in the resources I use or the way I organise the learning environment. At the same time, it is also helps me create much more user-friendly environments. I know now that there are things I can do from the outset to make learning experiences more effective for more people. A key thing is that I can build in support or different ways to access material or instructions at the beginning, rather than add it in later. And I can offer that support to everyone so that can use it if they need it.

Chrissie: That’s cool. I think that’s what I would call a “design to include” mindset. It’s like we know there is always going to be diversity. That’s a given. Someone in the room is always going to have dyslexia or will have forgotten their glasses, or easily loses attention if someone talks for long. Plus everyone will be bringing different experiences and histories. When we don’t have that design to include mindset, we can inadvertently design to exclude. We don’t mean to, we do it unconsciously.

Allanah: Yep, when I was first full-time teaching in a classroom of primary-school-aged children, I had never heard of Universal Design. I was teaching from the perspective of doing what I thought was best for all my students. I taught from a position from where I thought most children would succeed. Once everyone was occupied doing something, I would try and 'pick off' the outliers or groups of children who historically had been struggling to give them more support.

As I became a more experienced teacher, I tried to see the lessons from more of a child's perspective. I started structuring lessons around the individual needs of learners and at the same time wanted to create an environment that worked for everyone.

As I learn more about Universal Design, I design lesson sequences in a way that supports all learners right from the beginning, rather than as an add-on. That’s quite a big difference.

Chrissie: That makes a lot of sense to avoid the retrofitting. Have you got any examples?

Allanah: At one point I had a student called Anna in my class. As Anna had low vision, I made sure that when I wrote instructions for everyone on the whiteboard I read them aloud so Anna could hear them. I also gave Anna her own copy in large print to take to her desk. I made sure when we played sport we used large bright coloured balls so Anna could more easily see the ball. When we worked with text in Google Docs, I increased the default font size of our Google Docs (video tutorial) so we could all see the text more readily as we typed. In my planning across the curriculum, I tried to make things work for Anna and, in doing so, ensured that all learners in the class benefitted. My teaching was enhanced, and all students could participate and were able to access the content independently.

Chrissie: That’s a great example of a UDL approach in action. For example, offering those instructions in different ways aligns with the principle of Representation. Not only did you provide Anna a range of options to support her understanding, you also offered them as a support for everyone. I can imagine in your classroom that students would also be encouraged to take photos using tablets to capture ideas for later or just to bring the information nearer to them. These approaches also support independence and provide students with opportunities to make good choices about what they need to support their learning.

The use of coloured balls was also a great approach. It’s such a small thing, but it can make such a massive difference to a student’s participation – it levels the playing field. The coloured balls could be considered an assistive technology, just like Google Docs – they both increase access. The beauty is that they can be used by everyone. This is really the Action and Expression principle in action. We recognise and minimise barriers to participation and create options and embedded supports for students so they can just get on with creating and learning and sharing.

Chrissie: So what about your work as a facilitator, how is UDL having an impact there?

Allanah: As a Blended eLearning Facilitator I facilitate a number of practical workshop sessions with teachers and endeavour to make sure my approach and resources are designed with Universal Design for Learning principles in mind. I try think of the sessions from the perspective of the participants. Whenever possible I send out a Google Form giving participants a taste of what to expect from the session and asking what they would like me to know about them. Here is an Example Google Form from a workshop from Chisnallwood Intermediate. I give people access to the resources beforehand so they know what’s coming. I make sure they have access to those same resources during and after the session so they can rewind bits if I went too fast, or if they missed part of the session, or were not able to attend at all.

I am also conscious that all participants will be at different stages of their elearning journey: some may be just beginning, others may be eLearning whizzes. So my strategy is to give participants a range of options during a session including an ‘escape lane’ where they can self direct their own learning or explore a line of inquiry that grabs their attention as I am working alongside others who wish to go at a more structured pace.

UDL has also really influenced my thinking when I am preparing resources for participants. Now I try to provide resources keeping in mind that people will have quite different preferences – some may prefer to watch videos, some may prefer to follow written instructions, some may prefer to have the resource on their iPad and some may prefer to be led directly as they walk through the material step by step. Others will use a combination of all the options. I also try to make resources that are rewindable and reviewable.

Chrissie: I can increasingly see how UDL is having a significant impact on how we facilitate and work alongside adults. So often workshops, staff meetings or professional learning sessions are scheduled in the late afternoon when teachers are exhausted and already “full up” with the day. Creating engaging, flexible, rewindable options makes so much sense. Designing to include seems to be an imperative in those contexts.

So that is a snapshot of our conversation. Huge thanks to Allanah for her openness and willingness to share her journey.

if you are interested in finding out more about Universal Design for Learning, visit:

May
07

Why I love research

Louise speaking with man in Bali

Recently, I was at a networking event and someone asked me what I do for a job. When I said ‘I am a researcher’ they replied, ‘I feel sorry for you’, going on to share how they thought this must be the most boring job in the world. To be honest, I was a bit taken aback by this comment, as I have never found research boring. Hard work maybe, but never boring. Being a researcher means I have the space to follow my curiosity, to think broadly about life and learning, and to ask what if questions — and all in my workplace. How can this be boring?

As a researcher, I am constantly challenged, as I am exposed to new ideas and perspectives, which has caused me to see things differently on many occasions. As a result, I find that I am always learning, which, for me, is an exciting outcome of my job. These positive experiences with research have not just happened, however. They have evolved as I have developed a disposition towards research, one that I believe is different from the characteristics typically valued in educators.

I have a teaching background, and so I have learnt to think on my feet and make decisions in a moment. As a teacher, I looked for ideas I could implement straight away in the classroom, and my planning often became a bit of a snatch and grab process. I liken this to being a magpie — seeking out useful ideas and resources from a range of sources, and using these to build a programme that is varied, on trend, and best practice. Teachers are expert at this, but as a researcher I found this approach the antithesis of inclusive, innovative research, and I had to change.

The process of research requires a slowing down and letting go of being the knower. My own experience has taught me to be friends with questions and uncertainty, and to be patient as I wait and see what happens. I am not alone in this; I have observed those I mentor in research go through the same process of unlearning old patterns to become a more curious and intrepid explorer. Cultivating a disposition for research in my own work has involved learning and relearning how to question and listen more.

Learning to question more

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May
05

Open digital badges

A contemporary way of contributing to a professional portfolio that is more reflective of learning in today’s world

Badges

Looking for new ways of collating and showing your professional learning? Or, thinking about new ways to support your learners to set goals? If so, open digital badge certification might be the answer.

What are Open Digital Badges?

Badges, also known as micro-credentials, are gaining global momentum as modern evidenced-based certification. Why is this?  At a first glance, digital badges appear to be a visual representation of a person’s skills, knowledge, competencies and achievements. However, part of the richness to open digital badges is the evidence that sits in behind each badge detailing the learning. This ‘metadata’ displays information that records the badge issuer, the date issued, and the criteria required to earn the badge. Furthermore, open digital badges enable the badge earner to link to artefacts that contributed to the badge such as research, inquiry, reflections and videos thereby adding robustness to the badge. Selecting the displayed badge showcases the basic requirement information and any evidence of learning that the holder has chosen to share.

 

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Apr
30

Four things leaders are, but aren’t

How our expectations of leadership will determine its future

leadership

Sometimes people get into leadership for the wrong reasons: they wanted a title, a pay bump, a higher rank — sometimes they end up in leadership roles by accident, because no one else wanted the job, or they were the ‘most senior’ or ‘most qualified’ person available. Many of us have worked with these types of leaders and probably sworn that if we ever find ourselves in a similar position we will definitely not be like them. But what were they like, and why was that so disappointing to us and/or destructive to our teams?

If we can answer this question, we stand a much better chance of getting, or becoming, the leaders we want to work with in the future — because just creating more leaders will not help us achieve our goals, but creating more great leaders will.

What follow are four things we expect leaders to be, but often just aren’t.

 

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Apr
28

Confessions, assumptions, and keeping your educator brain alive

Confessions of a teacher: getting the brain alive

I’ve been thinking about my recent experience in getting to grips with educational research and escaping the confines of my assumptions. My involvement in an education innovation project has enabled me to do exactly that, and I can certainly recommend it — provided you are prepared to visit spaces outside your comfort zone.

The need to go beyond your comfort zone and assumptions

Having the time to read, reflect, think, visit schools, talk with teachers and students, and engage in professional conversations about a topic of interest is like taking a very deep breath of fresh air. It’s enjoyable but scary at the same time. Scary, because, not only am I working towards an outcome that is not yet known (thanks to the design methodology process being followed), but I also realise that my educational focus has gradually narrowed over the last few years.

 

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