Easier to find…but so much harder to trust.

Easier to find…but so much harder to trust.

Fischer and VanderHei have me thinking about fake news. Reliability of information and all that it means in the world today. They suggest, “there is more good information than at any point in humanity, but it’s harder than ever to find and to trust”. And I think I believe them. Access to information has changed how we do what we do. But has it made things better? Are we more informed or has access to information moved us to being more informed about stuff that doesn’t matter and armed us with the wrong kind of information? Toby Baker suggests, that while “the internet has given us access to a world of instant information, it’s also enabled the spread of disinformation on a hitherto unseen scale.” What does this mean for our society and more than that, our culture and the schools we educate our students in.

Have we really thought about google and how it works? Is google little more than a popularity contest for stuff? Where what you search brings up first what others have searched, so rather than the ‘best’ information, we find the most popular information? And if this is true, then the more we access this stuff, the more accessible this information becomes until its one of those popular myths. Like being able to see the great wall of China from the moon. You say it enough, and people begin to believe it (by the way…you cannot see the great wall of China from the moon. That is, if anyone has actually ‘been’ to the moon).

Our desire, our goal is that students become critical thinkers, yet at times, conducting a simple google search is near impossible. And we want them to dig deeper? Imagine digging a hole in solid concrete, armed with only a shovel. It’s hard work getting through that surface. Almost a waste of time. The shovel barely scratches the surface of what it means to dig. I think that’s how we conduct our internet searches. Barely scratching the surface of available information.

When we don’t give our students the tools to dig, they invariably revert to other options. Options we’d prefer they didn’t use or didn’t have to use. Mobile phones are a perfect example. Faster, more reliable internet would give us the option of digging deeper rather than just taking the first thing we see and treating it as ‘gospel’. Wikipedia is not the best thing ever…it has a place, sure, just not the most important place.

Our hope is for students to become critical thinkers. To think deeply about issues they care about. To think deeply about issues we all should care about. Without opportunity they will take on-board, and at times, believe to be true, anything they are lucky enough to download. And educating our students should never come down to luck.

Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think!

Matt

Sources:

Baker, T. (2017) https://digitalsocial.eu/blog/58/fake-news-what-is-it-and-how-can-we-tackle-it

VandeHei, J. & Fischer, S. (2016) https://www.axios.com/searching-for-information-nirvana-2248588151.html

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Social Media for Good

Social media often gets a bad rap. Educationally, social media is often a no go. Its blocked, or at the very least, heavily censored. And why wouldn’t it be. Social media is filled with lots of really bad stuff. Lots of great stuff, too. But we tend to concentrate on the bad over the good. Just like life, really.

Defining social media is tricky, as there are likely to be many definitions, but I like this one. “Social Media is the arena where users can engage in the creation and development of content and gather online to share knowledge, information, opinions using web-based applications, and tools” (Grover & Stewart, 2010, p. 9). It’s about an exchange of ideas and communicating thinking. Something I think we could do more of. Something we should do more of.

I want to create a movement of social media for good. To take a platform which is like second nature to our students and make it work for both us and them. Am I suggesting a free for all? No. But I am suggesting we have a look at some of the things that social media can do for us as teachers. And then see how we can apply that thinking to our students.

I love Twitter. I’ll put that out there straight away. But I didn’t always love Twitter. I thought it was another waste of time. I will add that when I first watched the Simpsons, I thought it was stupid and would only last a couple of seasons at the most, but now quite enjoy Homer’s antics. Not sure if that adds to the argument or takes away from it? As part of a University unit, we were asked to blog and use Twitter to promote the blog. The more comfortable I became with Twitter the platform, the more I understood the platform and the better use I made of it. The more you put into it, the more likely you are to see an outcome. As part of her PhD, Deb Netolicky looked at self-motivated learning strategies. She speaks of a teacher who described Twitter as “powerful, ongoing, up-to-the-minute professional learning”. And I’d agree. Twitter is my go to. It’s the place I find the most up to date information about almost everything. Not suggesting it is always 100% accurate, and that is where we need to meet our students. This is some of the learning we need to help our students understand. And our teachers. Just another handy tip. Not everything you read on the internet is 100% accurate. Just saying.

Deb goes on to say “Participants discussed connected learning using social media as a way to learn and connect with people, trends and resources.  They described Twitter as low-cost, constant, daily, individualised professional learning with a worldwide personal learning community in which hierarchies are collapsed and robust, global conversations can occur based on commonalities of interest, rather than role or status.” That’s something we could all use in a time like this. I would suggest all teachers get on Twitter, to really understand the platform and make informed decisions, we need to embrace the technology and what it can bring to us.

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Our food classes started using Instagram as a way of getting students to take more care with presentation when plating food in our classes. The results have been amazing. Is it about learning or something more than that? The impact of an audience? For Teachers, social media has many benefits. Not least of which engaging students in something they may actually take outside the classroom. Even better still, they might bring things they learn in the ‘real’ world into our classrooms. Imagine that. Students learning outside our classrooms!

Yes, there is another side. What about the pitfalls? Pitfalls. There are many. We are increasingly living in an online world where what we post can often have repercussions for our real self. The issues are real and we need to talk about them. What better place to discuss these issues than within our families. An advantage, though, would be for parents and teachers to work together to understand the reality of the digital world and what it means to safely navigate that world. We could better connect families with schools and help keep other accountable. As a parent, I like the idea.

As teachers, we need to involve ourselves in the digital world. A 21st Century approach to learning requires teachers to be conversant with 21st Century technologies. It is the reality of where our students exist. Not getting involved leads to the risk of alienating ourselves even further from the very students sitting within our classrooms. We need to understand the pitfalls and make sure our students do not find trouble in the digital world.

We need to reclaim social media for good. To teach our students what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. I think it’s time social media played a bigger role in our classrooms. If you don’t believe me, have a conversation with your student when you get the opportunity.

Netolicky, D. (2016) Heutagogical and transformational: Journeys of discovery, discomfort and breakthrough Blog post.

https://heutagogycop.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/guest-post-from-deborah-netolicky-heutagogical-and-transformational-journeys-of-discovery-discomfort-and-breakthrough/

Grover and Stewart (2010) as cited in Ahlquist, J. (2016) Technology Terminology (viewed 18/10/2016)

http://www.josieahlquist.com/educator/blog/resources-old/technologyterminology/

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When investing in new technology…

Adapted from:

http://www.englishup.com.br/2016/01/22/11-reasons-teachers-dont-use-technology/

Teachers need to connect technology with training. If you want to use it, you will need to know how to use it or at least be willing to learn (and fail) alongside the students. The technology belongs to the students, not the staff. Learn to use it…and then use it.

Pedagogy comes before ‘wow’. Knowing how to use technology (i.e. switch it on and off) is less important than knowing how technology is effective for learning. “Why” before how. Always.

Training needs to be contextualised and applied to specific learning areas. It will be look different in many learning areas. Is there any one size fits all approach?

Training needs to be balanced with reality. Technology is a tool and should enhance good teaching. Bad technology will not replace good teaching and good technology will be of little benefit to bad teaching.

Technology changes quickly. Locking in for the long haul can be dangerous. New is always around the corner. Adaptability is the key. Can the technology adapt to the school’s changing needs?

Technology should be a solution to a problem, not the cause for more. Consult teachers before making school-wide decisions.

IT support should be a source of help, rather than fear for teachers. Unreliability or malfunction causes stress and fear in the teacher. Tech support needs to be delivered in a way that serves and supports teachers, not the other way around. Teachers need to learn initial first steps towards solutions and to articulate problems effectively.

Infrastructure is key. Without sufficient connectivity (and some left in the tank for peak times) teachers are being set up to fail. And they will. Not in a good way, because the only choice they will then have is to not choose technology.

Technology needs to be applied with the understanding of how it can transfer and transform student and teacher learning.

Policies of fear, mistrust or risk?

So I have been thinking about policy. Again. A little more deeply. Imagine policy was informed by the International Baccalaureate learner profile more than the media? It would make a difference to the way we do school and to what we do at school. Questions regarding policy and what is appropriate might no longer be simply “yes” or “no”, but would be informed by an alignment to the learner profile.

“Does it fit our ‘profile’ as risk takers?”

“We are trying to encourage our staff and students to take risks, so it fits.”

“Then it looks like something we should be doing.”

Does that idea you want to take to the classroom develop critical thinking skills in our teachers and our students? Yes? Then it sounds like we ought to do more of it. Can that social media tool help us develop confident expression and creativity? Then we need to jump on it. If its blocked, unblock it. Because if we are truly trying to develop students who ‘act with integrity and honesty’, then blocking things hinders that development. There will be breaches. Sure. Because we are not there yet. We are working toward it.

Fear of what might happen is what holds many teachers back from trying anything. “What if the kids did the wrong thing? Or what if the kids used technology to do something off task?” We have just begun teaching ‘Innovation’ in our year 6 classrooms. Innovative thinking. We ask our students to think differently and then help them to develop a growth mindset. Something which we hope will help them develop better strategies in learning throughout the school. And then it appears we try to train them out of that thinking. By telling them they are wrong. By giving them less choice. By saying, ‘I don’t trust you’, often without the need to utter the words.

The media is loud. It is noisy. It ‘brings to light’ things that are important. But the news of the day is often lost in tomorrow’s news, when something bigger or more important appears. Yesterday’s news becomes just that. Forgotten and we move on. To that next most important thing that, too, will be forgotten. Schools cannot be like that. Priorities cannot change like the daily news. It just wouldn’t work.

School change is as much about cultural change as it is anything. And cultural change takes time. Adjustments to be made and give and take should occur on both sides of the divide if the divide is to become anything less. Culture, or the ‘way we do things around here’, should never become, ‘this is how we have always done things’, particularly if there is a better way. Ideas grow and change and morph into better ideas when we talk and learn together.

We cannot be risk-takers without the risk of getting it wrong or looking a little foolish, though if we are seeking to be ‘principled, to respect others and to take responsibility for our actions and their consequences’, then surely why we do what we do must be filtered through the lens of the IB learner profile.

If the aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who want to create a better world, and if the learner profile is what we strive to be, then at what stage will we use that as our measure of the type of person our schools are developing?

We are not there, yet…though imagine a community where the ‘who’ we are and the ‘what’ we do embody the principles of the IB learner profile?

I could get used to living in a place like that.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

Source: IB Learner Profile Learner profile 20140312. International Baccalaureate Organization. 2013

More than a Delivery Service

More than a Delivery Service

My understanding of ‘pedagogy’ has been challenged and has deepened in many ways over the past couple of months. Pinpointing how is not going to be easy. The word, ‘pedagogy’, brings with it such baggage. It is interpreted differently by teachers, parents and students would most likely shrug their shoulders if you asked what they thought about it! It is hard to define, as we see parts of the picture but not the whole thing. And if we see parts of the picture, the parts which are clearest to us are the areas to which we tend to ‘pay attention’. By doing that, we miss many vital areas of pedagogy.

This is the understanding I started with:

Curriculum = What I teach. Pedagogy = How I teach.

I would think that many teachers have not moved too far past that definition. Assuming teaching is like picking up a flat pack from Ikea (Curriculum) and following the (supposedly) easy instructions (Pedagogy) inside the pack. It’s what many teachers long for in the belief it would make life easier. The recipe for success…whatever that looks like. Has anyone tried to put together a flat pack from Ikea? Those things are insane…and I think that is what makes it hard to define pedagogy. How one interprets the ‘instructions’ determines the results. Interpretation has an impact.

Rather than just a system of delivery, pedagogy is about who we are as teachers, and more importantly, learners. So my understanding of Pedagogy has developed into thinking about why and how we do what we do, who we are and how our students respond to who we are. There is a lot in there! And there is much scope for individual difference. So pedagogy has moved from ‘how’, to more than ‘how’!

So what makes it good? Is good pedagogy measured against the AITSL (or any other) standards. By measuring my strengths and weaknesses? Does hitting the standards, or even being a lead teacher according to the standards make for better learning? It does if good teaching equals good learning but I am not sure its that easy. Pedagogy is not a delivery system like the postal service where a package arrives or it doesn’t. The postie doesn’t care what you do with the package once it has arrived. The job is done. Teaching and good pedagogy are not like Australia Post. Teachers care what you do with the contents of the package. We want you to use the contents. To make use of whatever is inside. We want you to use and apply your learning to any situation you can. In ways we could never have imagined. It seems John Hattie would agree. Hattie is adamant that the “main preoccupation of teachers must be to constantly figure out how to know thine impact” and to “believe that success or failure in student learning is about what they as teachers or leaders did or did not do” (Hattie, as cited in Fullan, 2013, p.67).

If curriculum is about ‘what’ and pedagogy is about more than how, then where is the ‘new pedagogy and what does it mean? Michael Fullan suggests we need a ‘new pedagogy’ which involved “helping students find purpose, passion and experimental doing in a domain that stokes their desire to learn and keep on learning” (Fullan, 2013, p. 24). I find it hard to disagree.

“Learning, not teaching, per se, is the measure. The new pedagogy flips the roles of teachers and students” (Fullan, 2013, p. 67). That is a game changer. If my role is more than a delivery service, then I need to be accountable with what people do with my ‘deliveries’. Pedagogy becomes more than delivering content. It becomes more about learning. Delivering content is no longer enough.

So if I go back to the postie analogy, good pedagogy is about being the nosiest postie alive. They don’t just care about you getting your package. They want to know what is inside, they want to help you unpack it and then after you have used it for a while, they will want to know where and how it is being used. And they will expect answers! We measure results, but how would one measure ‘pedagogy’? Is good pedagogy measured by results or is there something more? Something innate that is immeasurable? And how is it learned. Experience may well be our best teacher. When I first started teaching, pedagogy 101 was about the best delivery service imaginable.

Hargreaves argues, “Good teachers are not just well-oiled machines. They are emotional, passionate beings who connect with their students and fill their work and their classes with pleasure, creativity, challenge and joy.” Pedagogy humanises the learning process. People, not programs, impact on people. Could it be that pedagogy is more about ‘who’ you are than ‘what’ you do? I’ll say it is.

Where does that leave my understanding of pedagogy? It has moved. Perhaps you could say it has done a complete backflip. If it started as this:

Curriculum = What I teach. Pedagogy = How I teach.

Then surely it has become:

Curriculum = What I teach. Pedagogy = How I learn.

How I learn about students. Learn about my practice. About how I impact my students. How I measure.  What I do (or do not do) that makes my students better learners. Learners who apply what they learn. Since what else really matters if “what you know is far less important than what you can do with what you know?” (Wagner, as cited in Fullan, 2013, p. 25)

Thanks for reading.

Matt

PS. Apologies to all the posties out there. Please deliver my mail…except the bills Happy for those to go ‘missing’.

References:

Fullan, M. (2013) Stratosphere. Integrating Technology, Pedagogy and Change Knowledge. Pearson, Canada.

Fullan, M. & Langworthy, M. (2014) A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning, London: Pearson.

Hargreaves, A. (1998) The Emotional Practice of Teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education, Vol. 14, No. 8, pp. 835—854. Elsevier Science Ltd.

What do you see as some of the important aspects for education and for a curriculum in the C21st?

What do you see as some of the important aspects for education and for a curriculum in the C21st?

21st century curriculum. What does it look like? What should it look like? There is a thought that we have perfected the 20th century curriculum, but that we are still trying to adapt the 20th century curriculum to the 21st century. Could it be that Dr Sugata Mitra is right? Have we perfected a system for the wrong time and place? “We have created a system to produce ‘identical’ students, to fit a machine that no longer exists. The system is not broken…it is a wonderfully constructed system that is outdated” (Mitra, 2013). How are we producing students for a future when we have little idea of its makeup?

We are tinkering with a design. Adapting to a design that might not move us in the direction we need to go. If we keep doing what we have always done, we will continue getting what we have always got. If we are lucky. And is that enough? If what we produce works well for now, will it still work well into the future? Technology has changed what we can do and will do in the future. I cannot go back. I often wonder what teaching would be like without technology? Would I like it? Would I be able to cope? Maybe if I had access to laptops but the students didn’t? I really do not know. ICT has changed what I do and how I do it. It has changed me as a teacher. Not everything works, all of the time, but some of it does. And well!

Could our future begin by creating a culture of failure and risk. There is a lot at stake. School culture is tied to national standards and common testing, but surely any learning must lead to application and real world solutions. Time is the most important resource any curriculum has and also one of its biggest hurdles. Time in the curriculum for risk and failure…who would even entertain such a thought? Risk and failure often lead to creativity and learning. Surely they go hand in hand. When learning is so intimately tied to testing and to productivity, we lose focus on what is important. Test scores become our measuring stick. Perhaps with all the changes, the assessment strategies need to reflect our changing dynamics? Looking for 21st century skills must require the use of screen and keyboard over the pen and paper strategies of our past.

I see a big shift in power as being one of the most important aspects of education. Power brings with it responsibility. Students having more control over their learning. More control over their thinking and more control over their actions. We set the framework and let them loose, guiding and questioning, but ultimately giving them power over their learning. Mistakes…they will happen. And that’s ok. It the learning from the mistakes that is most important.

Michael Fullan (Fullan 2013) depicts a curriculum that integrates good pedagogy and technology to maximise learning. It must be:

  1. Irresistibly engaging.
  2. Elegantly efficient
  3. Technologically ubiquitous
  4. Steeped in real-life problem solving

Imagine a curriculum measured through those four areas. Simple, engaging, always available and linked to my real life. Certainly sounds like something that might motivate me to learn!

Thanks for reading.

Matt

References:

Dweck, C. 2010. Even Geniuses Work Hard. Educational Leadership, September 2010. Stanford University

Fullan, M. 2013. Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy and Change Knowledge. Pearson Canada Inc.

Mitra, S. 2013. Building a School in the Cloud. Video (Ted2013). February 2013. Link: http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_build_a_school_in_the_cloud?language=en

Learning via Sandpit Thinking…

Growing up in Sydney in the late 80s and early 90s, music was a big part of my life. I remember travelling from Greenacre to Dee Why every Monday night to practice with the band. We thought we had something special and were ‘gunna make it’. As an aspiring musician, the Sydney music scene was thriving, but was also fairly conservative. Cover bands were a staple. It was Saturday night, and we would go and see a cover band. That’s where the crowd would be. I remember following ‘Dynasty’, a Kiss cover band, all over the city. As a musician, it seemed like people only wanted to see or hear what they already knew. Bands that played original music…no thanks. Bit too scary. What if they are no good? Seems like it was forever ago, and so much has changed. Or has it?

Flip that thinking to teaching. In particular, ICT in education. We want to know what we are in for. We want to do that which we know will work (or at least we think it will work). Innovation, while it might be better than what we already have, is new. It is unknown and that makes it scary. Scary is not the best thing for teachers. Control…now that’s more like it! Control is the opposite to sandpit thinking.

“Education is a laboratory of and for society. It is a ‘sandpit’ for exploring the range of possible thoughts and actions.” (Kalantzis and Cope, 2012, p. 92)

Stop for a minute and think about that line…I love the idea of ‘sandpit’ thinking. Remember the sandpit?! Conjures up images of play. Of designing towns and cities. Race tracks. Building roads, etc. Castles. You don’t plan. You just ‘do’. You create and see where that takes you. You argue over how strong the walls are, then flatten out the sand and start again. Your little sister annoys you, so you move her to some other bit of sand somewhere so she cannot bother you while you create the ‘masterpiece’. And then after hours of work, the best part. You trample the creation. Smashing walls, wrecking roads and buildings as you go. Or is that just a boy thing?

But wait. Before we get too caught up in the moment and jump into the sandpit. What type of sand are we using? Has it been tested? Is it safe? Children could get hurt in the sandpit. Are there any allergies? There needs to be some rules about what we do with the sand and how…collaboration. Sure. But makes sure everyone gets a turn! We got bogged down on the details. In the law. The rules if you like. We want to know what we are ‘allowed’ to do before we will even contemplate playing. And how will we be judged? The challenge for us is simple. It is the challenge of letting go. Of learning new things. New ways.

I wonder if sandpit thinking might help us to develop some amazing ideas that we can use in our classrooms? I wonder if we can think about thinking a little less and just start doing. Play. Have a go. See what you come up with and teach one another. New ways of thinking enable new ways of learning. This will will require new ways of assessing. That is scary. But nowhere near as scary as doing nothing!

Jump in and play. What a great place to start!

Thanks for reading.

Matt

Kalantzis, M. & Cope, B. (2012). New learning: a charter for change in education. Critical Studies in Education, 53, 1, 83-94.

What do I do well?

What do I do well?

I find it easy to build a rapport with my students. Students in most schools are pretty savvy when it comes to their understanding of teachers. If you listen to them long enough you will know what they are thinking. About everything. I tap into this thinking to ensure what I am doing is on track and taking us where we need to go. I wonder if at times we do not pay them the respect they deserve. When teachers demand respect, there is a problem. Respect is very different to fear. I respect my students, and do what it takes to earn their respect. For the most part, that is easy. Listen to them. Be fair. Be honest with them.

I think I am the type of teacher who is willing to take risks. I work with technology. A lot of technology. At times, technology fails us. On Monday, we had a power failure and you should have seen the school! It was as if most teachers had forgotten how to teach. No airplay. No Wi-Fi. It was almost like a zombie apocalypse was happening. #firstworldproblem, I know, though it illustrates how reliant we have become on our technology. I had to write on a whiteboard!

I am willing to get it wrong. Better yet, I am willing to admit when I get it wrong. I don’t understand learning for the sake of learning nor would I expect my learners to hear me tell them “this is just something you have to learn”. If it does not connect to real life, I don’t know if I want to learn it. If that’s how I feel and I am the teacher, I wonder how the students are feeling and I wonder what they are thinking. If I hear a lot of “what’s the point?” I know something is missing and I seek out two of my students who I use as class ‘barometers’. I ask them the following questions.

“Tell me what you are thinking and what is the problem with this task?”

“Is there too much work?”

“Am I being unrealistic?”

They are tough enough to tell me. I sometimes do not want to hear what they tell me. But I listen, I explain further and ask if they understand? I then go and tell the class or get them to explain to others what I want them to do.

Writing a list of the things I do well is quite hard! It would be much easier to write a list of areas I need to improve. And I guess that’s the point.

Thanks for reading.

Matt

Moving past requirement thinking

Moving past requirement thinking

I was thinking this morning about how we frame things internally and how emotion and thinking affect how and what we do. It sounds a bit odd. How does thinking affect my thinking? If how I feel affects how I think, then surely what I think affects how I think? It certainly affects what I do. Before you get too lost in that thought let me develop the idea a little further.

Consider the following scenario:

During a departmental meeting, staff has just been informed that they must do 20 hours minimum of professional development across the year. It must be logged and must be reflected on.

“Is it a requirement?”

“Yes.”

“Well then I suppose I will have to do it…”

“Yes you will.”

When we get trapped into that kind of thinking, we are going to learn very little. We do the task because we have to. The ‘system’ requires it. It is ‘minimum requirement’ student think. This is reflected in the thoughts and actions of many teachers. I have not done the research, but I imagine if a teacher thinks that way about their personal learning journey, then why would their students think any differently? Why would a student engage deeply in learning? The knowledge economy requires new ways of thinking and learning. Stepping away from the system designed to control and intervene. The new system must be a place where independent thinking is valued. (Connell, p. 215)

If we stopped thinking requirement and started thinking opportunity, things would look different. Things would feel different. If it is all about perspective, then how we as teachers view things matters greatly. Is that what we are talking about when talking about teacher efficacy? If I think my learning will impact on my students learning I will see it as important, but if I do not see any benefit…

Could this be part of the problem of relevance for teachers? Perhaps much of their identity is tied to their initial teacher education and less about who they are or who they are becoming. Perhaps they have been working on perfecting their lessons for the past 20 or so years that they have forgotten the most vital part of the puzzle. It’s not about them. It’s not about us. If schools are about the students, then student learning is and must be our only measure of success. If you have perfected the lesson for 20 years ago, then I suggest you stop, because the past has gone and those students are now teaching alongside you. Maybe validating how good the lessons are while bemoaning that fact that students have changed so much!

Perhaps that’s what Greg Whitby (21st C Learning) means when he suggests our DNA must change. My identity as a teacher is so wrapped up in who I am and how is see myself. We have worked out how to teach. If we were to be judged on our ability to plan and deliver content during a lesson, we would be doing well, but the students are no longer the same. Sound teaching practice and excellent delivery has misled us into the assumption that good teaching = good learning. “A good teacher education programme has to orient itself to the world its students will actually be living in…knowledge and its applications in teaching are inherently dynamic.” (Connell, p. 225) If the world and learning is dynamic, our practice must become dynamic. Change and adapt. Becoming a better teacher is more about adaptability and change than it is about content delivery. Phil Schlechty argues, “Learning is all about purposeful engagement”. (Fullan, 2013, p.17) Knowing your stuff is important, but knowing your students and adapting to their needs is more so.

If my perspective as a teacher does not include some understanding of the need for lifelong learning, then I might be in the wrong profession. Who could have imagined this world we live in today, 20 years ago? We learn, we grow and we adapt. We reflect on our practice and the cycle begins once more. If today’s schools look like this, just imagine how the next chapter will unfold!

Professional learning is a requirement. You have to do it. You have to tick some boxes. I imagine that if we can reframe it as an opportunity to learn, to grow and to adapt…what a difference that will make to our thinking and to our learning. I no longer do this because I have to. I do this because it is good and I want to be a lifelong learner. I want to set an example my students can follow.

Looking forward to making this world our new reality!

Matt

References:

Connell, R. (2009) Good teachers on dangerous ground: towards a new view of teacher quality and professionalism.  Critical Studies in Education. Vol. 50, No. 3, October 2009. Routledge

Fullan, M. (2013) Stratosphere. Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change Knoweldge Pearson Canada Inc.

Whitby, G. (2007) 21st Century Learners. Youtube Video Catholic Education. NSW

Tell me how it relates to real life?

I was talking to a student during the week about maths and the application of what they were learning in the real world. They had asked a teacher how this was used in real life and the student was told that sometimes we just have to learn things because they are good to learn. It was a very good question with a poorly though out response. While technically correct, from a motivation and learning point of view, the response is way off the mark. And that got me thinking. Without some application to my everyday life, what is the point? Why would I spend several hours a day, hurting my brain while trying to understand some concept that my teacher tells me may not ever impact on my life?

I have just signed up for some STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professional learning, so I had thought I should do a bit of reading prior to the event. I came across this article by Deirdre Jackson. STEM growth: Getting students interested in the sciences, where she relays that research suggests “real-world problem solving and game-based learning can encourage participation and learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

From this research, Jackson suggests, teachers “mainly concentrate on teaching the course, not how it relates to real life or jobs”, while students are more concerned with “understanding how theoretical concepts learned in maths classes can be practically applied.” And why wouldn’t they be concerned with that? It’s what I want for myself. Not only will I learn better, I’ll understand why I am doing it. If we are not applying what we are learning, are we really learning at all?

I heard a comment on @theprojecttv during the week that to get kids excited about science we teach them to cook. I couldn’t agree more! Link what you learn to what you eat? Now that’s just crazy talk. Imagine the possibilities ‘crazy’ thinking might lead to in STEM based subjects. Imagine learning something in one subject and applying it to another context? Imagine applying what we learn to our everyday life!

I’d be all for that. So would many of our students…

Thanks for reading.

Matt

Reference:

Jackson, D. (2014) STEM growth: Getting students interested in the sciences. Accessed 7/6/15 at http://rd.acer.edu.au/article/stem-growth-getting-students-interested-in-the-sciences