Pedagogy Litmus Test

We have a saying in our company.

“It’s about evolution, not revolution.”

It’s often the line I end workshops with. I encourage teachers not to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ and completely revamp their whole classroom practice, but to choose one thing that will make a difference tomorrow for their students (that they’ve learned from the day) and go from there.

BUT, there’s a caveat to that. If your classroom is operating in a way that needs revamping… then you TOTALLY need to start again. Our children’s future relies on them being taught, encouraged, nutured and developed in a way that is completely different from before. Our generation have adapted because we’ve had to but this generation’s need to be agile, collaborative and multi-skilled is crucial.

So, how do you know if your practice needs evolving or a complete revolution. Here’s an idea – a small test. Where is your class on this spectrum? If you’re far to the left, then you need some serious ‘pedagogical redesign.’

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Let them loose – they’ll surprise you.

We help schools develop their STEM learning development with their students and teachers and one of my favourite activities is the ‘Artbot’ design challenge. It’s super low tech with simple circuitry and coloured felts and uses mostly vibration as a mechanism to drive the cup across paper to create some ‘art.’

artbot-operationMost of the time students will create something that resembles this image, especially if you frame this as a research exercise where they can research what an Artbot is.

But, given the time and space to ideate, design and redesign, students will often come up with stunning designs, completely out of the box. These students yesterday created a hand held rotating mechanism. Brilliant. I’d never seen that before.

See what happens when we allow them that time and freedom to imagine, to create, to explore. That’s what people were made to do. We were created to create.

Image above –cdn.sciencebuddies.com

Innovation’s not just a buzz word

No one likes to jump on a band wagon but the funny thing about cliches is that they become what they are because there’s some truth in there. ‘Innovation’ is like that. It’s overly used because we need it. Desperately.

 

We need innovative teachers and schools so that we prepare students for today, let alone for tomorrow. What we did yesterday just won’t cut it anymore, for these reasons;

  • the amount of fake news that needs filtering
  • the disruption to our familiar because of technology
  • the disconnect between family and community

If we keep following the techniques and practices that have worked in the past, just because it ‘used to work’ then we’ll miss what will work for now and tomorrow. It takes bravery and it’s not about short cuts.

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Quick question with long lasting consequences

Everyone’s talking about personalised learning. It’s one of the real reasons I love being a digital consultant for teachers and schools: it’s the technology we have now that enables this to happen on a manageable scale. And students are the winners!

One aspect of personalised learning that I think get’s overlooked (we’re often catering for style, timing, pace, age etc) is tailoring our programmes towards passions, interests and strengths. Here’s a question…

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Did you know it’s a myth that Einstein was a failure at school? He was actually a great student, from many accounts, with obvious strengths in Mathematics and the Sciences.

At the age of 12 he was studying Calculus, which at that time wasn’t normal until students were 15. He showed obvious strengths in this area. It would seem that, in 1881, his school system was flexible enough to cater for his strengths.

Interesting.

iPhone Panoramas

 

If you’ve got an iPhone, chances are you’ve taken a panorama. I know Android phone have that feature on their cameras but in my experience, and I’ve owned both kinds of phones, nothing beats the iPhone for simplicity when it comes to camera features.

The Apple Youtube Channel now has some brilliant short videos that teach you how to get more out of the iPhone’s camera – from close up shots, to using the flash and of course, how to take great panoramas. In this clip below, the clip demonstrates how to use the pano in a vertical fashion to take images. Why didn’t I think of that!

Here are some recent panoramas from some of my trips this year. The trick is to move slow, keep the arrow on the line and hold your phone steady.

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Rugby match, Rugby Park – Invercargill, 2017

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San Francisco street, CA, 2017

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Sphero workshop, TTP, Melbourne, 2017

 

STEM Elements

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 7.06.59 AM.pngOne of our most popular regional events is the “STEM and Digital Technologies” workshop we offer. Teachers have a day to explore both the pedagogy of STEM and get hands on with a range of technologies, from Sphero SPRK+, to low tech gear like popsical sticks and ping pong balls! You can see a Twitter moment here which gives you a small window into the action!

This week I’ve been updating some of the material we share on the day and I’ve adjusted this graphic of the ‘STEM Elements’, based on based on the book, “STEM Lesson Essentials, Grades 3-8” by Jo Anne Vasquez, Cary Sneider, Michael Comer. STEM ELEMENTS (1)

 

These elements are a great way to make the important aspects of STEM stand out for teachers and I also encourage them to use these four elements as a planning guide when they’re preparing to engage students in STEM. When we have an empty box it forces us to fill it in! It’s a helpful way to help us engrain this thinking when we are starting out and a good technique to foster new pedagogies into our school culture.

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Here are some images from the workshop ran last Wednesday. If you’d like to host a regional STEM event at your school, or have me work exclusively with your staff, contact me here on Twitter or use the contact widget on this page.

 

Listen to the Learning Chatter

If you’re like me then you love using technology to engage and motivate learning in your classroom. One of the ‘hits’ you often have to take when you do this is being labelled as a ‘teacher into toys.’ It’s frustrating to hear since you know and have seen the difference they can make for your learners.

img_2650One of the ways you can show others the benefits of these ‘toys’ is to record some of the conversations that your students are having during activities. I’ve started to call this;

  • LEARNING CHATTER = the language and conversations of learning in action.

Here’s a video of some sound bites I captured with one group at a recent Sphero SPRK+ demo hour I took at a local Primary School. Listen for the subject based vocab, the design thinking and collaboration here.

 

Coding Resources Hyperdoc

There will be a load of teachers in Australia and New Zealand starting to think about planning for the year ahead with a new class and a new group of students. One of the things we are always hoping to do is to inspire and motivate them in those first few weeks.

What better way to do this than to launch them into the world of coding! If you’re after a resource to help you get started, here’s a poster with some clickable links to take you straight to the app or website you’ll need.

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There are resources for anyone just starting out, through to more advanced users who are looking to develop their understanding of syntax coding. I’ve also written about this in more depth here, on our website at Using Technology Better. Click the links below to see the online versions and download your own copy if needed using the links at the top of the PDF.

Google Drive – Coding Resources Download

Microsoft OneDrive  – Coding Resources Download

Being ‘Tech Multi-Lingual’

For the last 2 years I’ve been a full time digital learning specialist. That’s a long winded way of saying I’m a technology coach in schools. It’s the culmination of having a growing interest in technology while I was a teacher, that expanded from being the school IT lead teacher, to facilitating a cluster of schools, then being full time in an itinerant role in my local city and finally, now, working full time for Using Technology Better, an international training company.

teh-1For most of this journey, especially while working in schools, you are usually locked into one technology ecosystem. Schools either adopt one platform or another and mostly since teachers (on the whole) struggle to keep up with technology as it is and the last thing we need is people on different devices confusing things. It’s also easier for the IT department or person to manage. (Let’s be honest…that’s usually the reason.)

tech pic.jpgSo I’ve spent most of my time in the Apple world, using Google and later on, Chrome Books. I dabled with Samsung phones (I loved my first S4 and the camera it had at the time) but have mostly used iPhones and Macbooks for the last 8 years. But if you saw my desk at moment – it’s a range of Apple, Microsoft and Chrome Books. And I would use most of this gear on a daily basis!

I remember a conversation with a colleague of mine, about 3 years ago. She was starting to work as a digital learning consultant and I asked which platform she used. Her reply took me back. She said they had to be ‘device agnostic.’ It just sounded plain weird! In those days you were either a PC or a Mac person. And you still hear comments like that now. I know people who won’t go near a kind of device cause it’s not from ‘their tribe’ regardless of whether it might have merit or value for what they’re trying to do.

So now, my role is to help schools learn to get the most out of whatever platform they are using. I’m currently preparing to train teachers in the Office 365 environment with Onenote and Microsoft Classroom – and these tools are amazing! I’m super impressed with the way that OneNote structures their notebooks and tabs, and connects with digital ink (the stylus and the drawing function) in a way that is so familiar to every teacher, for marking and editing student work for example.snip_20170107114317

I think, my main point here is that schools and teachers would benefit so much if the people making the decisions about what tech they use had an open mind to the range of options out there! And maybe, in the next few years we will see schools being open to having ‘the right tool for the right job’ with a range of different devices being used across the school. The days of, ‘We’re a Mac school’ or ‘We’re a Google school’ could be a thing of the past as we become ‘Tech Multi-Lingual.’

BUT –  I think I know the reasons why schools go in one direction or the other. BYOD programmes that let students bring any kind of device into classrooms with teachers who aren’t prepared for the range of tech is a recipe for disaster. What I’m advocating and talking about is a shifting world where we increasingly live and work in a shared tech space. Not most but many of us are realising the benefits of it and I think schools will shortly follow suit.

Are you seeing this in your schools?

 

Google Calendar Goal Update

Google Calendar has been my default calendar for over 10 years now! That’s a long time in anyone’s books and it keeps getting better. Last year (2016 – getting my head around that still) I got really used to using the IOS Google Calendar app – especially for the integration with reminders and the Keep app.

Today Google released an update for the ‘goals’ feature that lets you set some goals around fitness, building a skill, friends and family time etc. The app takes you through some questions that set when, how long and what you’re hoping to do and then synchs that info with your calendar and sends you reminders. You can also tell the app when you’ve completed the goal and it keeps track of your progress for the week.

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Open the app, bottom right corner click the ‘plus.’

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Calendar selects the best time for your goal. You can change this, though.

I’ve set a goal for this month to run every day, for at least 30 minutes each morning. We’ll see how that goes!

There’s also a feature that stores your info from your fitness tracker which I’m still working out…haven’t managed it yet for my Apple Watch but will record how when I do.