#INF537 Back on the rollercoaster

Rage Roller Coaster Drop Harry Rose via Compfight

I’m back! It seems like ages since I posted here. My last subject was through the WISE exchange program – Information Visualisation at San Jose State University. A fascinating subject, totally different to anything else I’ve done and also conducted quite differently to CSU subjects, with continuous assessment including marks for contributing to discussion forums and even a couple of tests. Needless to say, posting on my Thinkspace blog was not required…and, dutiful student that I am, I didn’t!

But I feel I’m back in another way, and that’s down to INF537 itself. I feel energised and overwhelmed all at once in a way that I haven’t experienced since INF530. Fitting, I guess, as that was the keystone subject and INF537 the capstone.

I’m energised by the cohort. So many people I’ve already connected with over this four year journey, and a handful I’m excited to meet for the first time. People I’ve collaborated, commiserated, celebrated, shared, whinged and laughed with, fabulous educators who truly are Modern Learners as described by Bruce Dixon in our first colloquia (more on that soon).

I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of what has to be done in this session (which takes place over little more than a standard school term). Reading, forum posts, participating in Colloquia, reading, blogging about Colloquia, other blog posts, reading and commenting on cohort blog posts, reading, a case study, reading and I haven’t even looked at what assignment one is yet! I’m fighting off an overwhelming sense of inadequacy – everyone else uses bigger words than me, they seem to have read more, know more, they articulate their thoughts more eloquently…will I be good enough, can I keep up? I’ve not felt like this since INF530 (well, maybe in INF536 also) but as I’ve said, I’m fighting these thoughts off and deep down I know that I can do it, seven subjects in I’ve always managed it somehow.
So, onto our first colloquia.

Bruce Dixon, co-founder of both the Anywhere, Anytime Learning Foundation, and, along with Will Richardson, Modern Learners, was guest presenter at our first colloquia held on Monday evening. In the spirit of anywhere, anytime learning, I listened to the first 15 minutes or so while walking home from the gym. The fact that I needed to hold up an umbrella inhibited my ability to participate in the chat for that time but I digress…

Modern Learners recently published ‘10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning’ white paper which is a short and worthwhile read and much of the colloquia discussion related to issues raised by the paper (Richardson, W. & Dixon, B., 2017).

A key tenet of the paper and our discussion is that the modern world requires self-directed and self-determined learners and there are concerns about the capacity of our schools and teachers to facilitate the modern learning required to produce them.

We were challenged to articulate what learning actually is, what self-directed learning looks like, and to consider what conditions provide the best opportunities for children to learn (whether or not that was within school).

There was some discussion about the role of technology in learning. I particularly like this quote from Chris Lehmann from Science Leadership Academy, PA, that Bruce shared with us:

We believe technology in schools needs to be like oxygen…ubiquitous, necessary, invisible…then stop talking about it.

An oft repeated phrase lately is “it’s not about the technology, it’s about the learning (or pedagogy)” which is true…to a point. I think a lot of “it” is about the technology, but the technology has to be easy and it just has to work – or as Chris says, be invisible. So many things that our students can do today were unthinkable when I was at school (no mobile phones, no instant creation of images, audio or video, no Google, no Youtube, no interactive websites, no instant communication, no social media…), and technology is the reason. What stops many teachers from fully embracing modern possibilities is their experiences of when things didn’t “just work”. We should no more have to think about technology than we do about a pencil’s capacity to make a mark on a piece of paper.

We need to stop privileging content over capabilities. Information is abundant, the notion of content being king started to go out with the invention of the printing press. Scholars then feared that the brain would be affected if it did not have to memorise knowledge that would be now stored in books. Learning how to learn is key. To finish, a quote from the white paper:

Regardless what the future holds, there is little doubt success in the future will first and foremost depend on one’s ability to learn, not on one’s accumulation of knowledge. (Richardson, W. & Dixon, B., 2017. p. 5)

Seymour Papert quote


Richardson, W. and Dixon, B. (2017). 10 principles for schools of modern learning. [ebook] Modern Learners Media. Available at: http://modernlearners.com/blog/ [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].

Some thoughts from week three

Bluebells at Dockey Wood (Explored)
Photo Credit: Brian Smithson via Compfight

So I’ve made it nearly to the end of week three and I think I’m still on track, if not the “right” one as such as there seems to be so many options. Compulsory blog task 1 was posted early and has been positively received.

I feel I should be doing more reflecting through non-compulsory blog posts like this but it doesn’t come easily to me. I do think about what I read and view but often it feels like they are such short unrelated snippets it would be too daunting to turn them into a cohesive whole. I have scraps of paper, notes in Evernote, Diigo saves with annotations and so many thoughts swirling through my mind…where to start?

Ok, here are some random jottings:

About search engines, the algorithms they use and how personal information is used

Lately have seen more and more evidence of search engines (Google) using previous searches and geographical location to target me. For example I recently searched for a book on the Bookdepository. For days later I kept seeing ads for that book on other sites. There is something in Facebook (which I’ve turned off) where your avatar will appear with an ad on your friends home page when you’ve liked a page giving an implicit personal recommendation which I certainly don’t want to bother my friends with.

I feel that Google has improved generally – I more quickly get what I’m after for SIMPLE queries. The knowledge graph information is often all that is needed to answer a quick question. I remember how good the search engine Ixquick was years ago, before Google became a verb. It described itself as meta-search engine because it collated the results of multiple search engines to find the best results and this was revolutionary to me at the time. I vaguely remember it claiming to be private but back then I had no idea what that really meant. I think it would be worth doing parallel searches on Google and Ixquick to see the differences in results.

I might be very naive but I’m not particularly concerned about my search history being saved. I don’t think I search for anything that anyone other than advertisers might find remotely interesting (certainly not anything incriminating) and I’m very skilled at tuning out from advertising. As for favouring results geographically close to me – well, by and large that is a good thing, especially when I’m out and about or travelling. In a different political environment of course this could be very different. I do like knowing that search engines like Duck duck go and ixquick are available.

Technology and youth: 5 competencies

I’m interested in the 5 competencies listed by Helen Haste that she says all students need and teachers should be teaching. I’d love to chat with teachers about how competent they think they are for each. If teachers can’t model the competencies themselves then teaching them is a challenge.

It would be good to see some sort of self-assessment tool for teachers. For example I think I’m fairly competent in Agency and Responsibility; Finding and Sustaining Community, and Managing Technological Change, but only ok with Managing Ambiguity and Managing Emotion. Maybe something like the ePotential survey Victorian government teachers complete each year (when not engaged in union bans over a pay dispute) to place you on a continuum and guide you to resources to help you further develop.

Connected learning

This infographic is a terrific summary of what Connected Learning can and should be. I think it would be great to stick up in the staffroom as a conversation starter.

Connected Learning

Connected Learning Infographic http://connectedlearning.tv/infographic

Google Glass

The interview with Margaret Power was interesting. Google Glass is still not available to buy here in Australia but I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to get my hands on some glass! I found it interesting that while she uses the glass extensively within her classroom for global collaboration and communicating with parents, she doesn’t see so much potential for it as a tool for use by students. I wonder also at the interviewer’s comment (quoting another interviewee) that he didn’t think Glass would change humanity, that in a few years it would be completely normal for everyone to be wearing it. Seemed like a bit of a contradiction to me.

On a personal note, Google Glass is one of the few recent technological development that my husband has shown interest in. He’s not exactly a Luddite but he’s a long way from an early adopter and really does not get my excitement over shiny things. However, as a powered parachute pilot, he can see immediate value in wearable technology that can incorporate a GPS, altimeter and camera.

Scholarly book review

I’m starting to feel more confident about the book review. I think I’ve settled on a book and have edited the Google doc to that effect although I have a second title in reserve. What’s been gratifying is that since starting to read it I’ve come across quite a few articles and sites that have relevance to the issues raised. These have come up in the module one readings as well as more generally through links on Twitter, blog posts accessed through Feedly and links from various Diigo groups. I’ve started collecting them in a not too haphazard style and hopefully they’ll serve me well when the time comes (not too far away!).

Technology issues

Finally, as I posted on Twitter this afternoon, I’m continuing to be frustrated by various technological failings and I can’t figure out whether it’s to do with my browser, my PC or if it’s just personal. In the first week I couldn’t post to the forum but that has fixed itself up. Last week when on the subject site each time I tried to navigate to a new page I’d get this message:

Failed to load

but when I reloaded the page loaded without problem, again this issue has sorted itself out. But now today I can’t access any of the Thinkspace blog sites directly although I can view the posts through Feedly on Chrome or directly on Internet Explorer. However I can’t log in to my dashboard through either browser. Which means this blog post isn’t going to get posted at all (right now I’m typing in Evernote). Perhaps I’ll try my iPad.


So I did try my iPad but it isn’t the best for using the blog editing tools. I assume I could use the Edublogs app (which I’ve successfully done before on another blog) but the downside of that is that drafts are not synced. So what has happened is that I finally got the 15 year old off the PC and after trying again to access Thinkspace, including installing another browser, I did what I probably should have done at the beginning – restarted the computer! Yes the good old Spiteri theory (named for an IT Technician at my previous school) has proved it’s value once again! I guess it’s no coincidence that at my new school the IT Technician’s office door has a huge sign saying “Have you turned it off and on again?”

Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nn2FB1P_Mn8 

So there you have it, some random, rambling thoughts. I hope I get better at this.

Blog Task #1

The Global One Room Schoolhouse: John Seely Brown (Highlights from JSB’s Keynote at DML2012). Retrieved from http://youtu.be/fiGabUBQEnM

I didn’t know it till this week but it seems I’m an entrepreneurial learner. I look for new ways to do things, seek new resources, re-evaluate, re-assess, tweak, try, and reflect. I’m not happy doing the same thing in the same way unless I know there isn’t a better way (and that’s rare). So John Seely Brown’s words right at the start of the video struck me straightaway. That’s it! That’s my passion! I want other teachers to be entrepreneurial learners too.

I want to find new and better ways to inspire and motivate teachers to have a go in the networked learning environment, to become “connected educators” – what Tom Whitby defines as “teachers who are comfortable with collaborative learning, social media, and sharing their ideas online.” I share his concern of a “huge gulf now developing between connected and unconnected educators.” (Digital trends shifting the role of teachers)

I want to be able to use the right language to convey my passion, to be able to articulate in pedagogical terms why it is important to keep up and to back up what I say with compelling examples from research. I read widely and find myself nodding my head in agreement or protesting “no” at an outrageous assertion but lack the skills to articulate why I respond that way. I need to “level up” my academic prowess. This is key in my motivation for study and I’m already being rewarded by the range of information being shared formally through the module and the new eye with which I’m viewing information shared informally.

Teachers I work with get bogged down in real and imagined barriers relating to workload, red tape and previous bad experiences, using them as excuses not to try. I love seeing the lightbulb go on when someone realises that a particular tool can actually make them more efficient (seen recently with a new Evernote convert) but often teachers lack motivation or are scared of breaking something or admitting they don’t know. I want teachers to find the same joy I do in play. As Seely Brown says “a key aspect of play is…permission to fail. Fail, fail, fail, then get it right”.

I want teachers to see that the technology itself is irrelevant. Just yesterday a primary teacher bemoaned the fact that her students struggled with using a mouse because they were so used to touch devices. Does it really matter? I can see a day in the not too distant future when the computer mouse will be viewed like the fountain pen, a quaint relic. We already have voice and gesture recognition and eye control is being developed. The mouse should be seen for what it is – an input device, nothing more, nothing less. This tweet from Marc Prensky sums it up beautifully:

I want teachers to see the need to transform learning tasks, that simply digitising an existing task and teaching it in the same old way will not develop 21st century skills.  Future work skills 2020 articulates skills that will be required in the workplace of the future but traditional teaching methods will not serve these needs. Consider Ruben R. Puentedura‘s SAMR model:

Image the creation of Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D. http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/
Retrieved from http://jennyluca.wikispaces.com/TPACK+and+SAMR 13 March, 2014

SAMR can be applied equally by teachers thinking about how they teach and how they themselves learn. I want to be an agent of redefinition.

Finally, I need to become a better teacher-librarian by sharpening up my own search and research skills. Already I am enjoying the challenges this poses.