I am a Teacher-Librarian at a small regional cooeducational college. I am keen to develop information literacy across the curriculum from early learning through to year 12. It is critical in my position to keep tabs on new technology and its educational application. I am lucky to work in a school where technology is supported.
When working through a subject, such as History: Revolutions, it is difficult to get the base knowledge mastered, yet the course requires students to consider different ways of looking at the same events in order to more deeply understand the range of perspectives from the time and the multitude of ways that historians have interpreted them.
The situation is exacerbated when the class is very small. In my class, we spend about 1/3 of our lesson time each week working together to collect and then analyse what we have found. I explain to the students that we can work more effectively together to maximise data collection, then give feedback to the collectors in terms of content and coverage of the topic.
It is a number of years ago since I first tried this with a class of 7 with the intention of getting my students thinking. That attempt is detailed here.
This worked brilliantly with the class concerned, but the next time I tried was unsuccessful as a number of students wanted to be silly.
Yesterday, I tried again and it was wonderful. here’s how the lesson unfolded
First I set a potential essay topic (selected to target the earliest part of the course): “How significant were preexisting tensions as a cause of the French Revolution of 1789?” Students were asked to work out the key topic words for each paragraph – could be four or five. Results looked like this once they were stacked in order of discussion.
Once the main concepts were stacked in paragraph order, I asked them to choose one main topic and use 3 small blocks to indicate the content of the sentences within the paragraph for that keyword.
Mind map in the same pairs as before what the essay will cover overall, using all class ideas to this point.
Providing feedback to the other teams on their mind map.
Students went home to write their planned essay over the weekend. The results were very pleasing – the longest first essays I have seen in many years of teaching this subject. Well done to all of them!
I confess – my views differ from some of the strategic Information Technology directions some schools are currently promoting, but in terms of providing valuable education, I really believe we should be embracing smartphones rather than banning them.
That would mean this:
Instead of this:
I am collating data on use and gain, which I hope to have in a state worthy of sharing shortly. I do not think the future will be easy, whichever way schools proceed but from my perspective, the key points are:
Ubiquitous tech such as smartphones and watches are part of today’s world.
No child’s parent has grown up with appropriate use of tech being modelled (first smart type phone 1992 – first iPhone 2007) so who teaches usage, advantages, dangers, and protocols if we don’t?
We are dealing with rapidly evolving products which we can’t hope to keep up with in terms of banning and have far greater chance of impact if we respond in an educational manner.
These devices augment computers (and in some ways surpass them) and should be harnessed appropriately for the enabling of learning as appropriate.
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), is home to a passionate community of global educators who believe in the power of technology to transform teaching and learning, accelerate innovation and solve tough problems in education.
ISTE inspires the creation of solutions and connections that improve opportunities for all learners by delivering: practical guidance, evidence-based professional learning, virtual networks, thought-provoking events, and the ISTE Standards.
The app I would recommend most highly is Office Lens and it is incredibly powerful when paired with OneNote with its amazing “immersive reader”. It works on laptops, iPads, and phones and is excellent for differentiation and assisted learning.
To my way of thinking the gains to education far outweigh the pain, particularly for older students who will soon be expected to function in the world of work.
Fortunately, I chose to attend a free webinar presented through Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) which was hosted by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. The inspiring session ran for nearly 90 minutes starting before school and finishing part way into period 1 (luckily, it was on a day that I could stay till the end!).
Heidi had presented a session in person at our school in the past, and while I cannot recall the topic, I can recall the way that she was able to mesmerise our teaching staff! I wasn’t sure what she would focus on but I reasoned I could always drop out of the call if it wasn’t valuable to me.
The ideas and concepts they work with have strong connections to the work we have done this year with Thinking Strategies, and a small group of has done with No Tosh this year (Stephen Nelson, Nick Palmer and myself) and previously with Amy Andrews, Jody Ogle and Paul Churchill. In both cases, we were led through a process of Design Thinking For Learning #DT4L. This time the process is being guided by a team at ISV and takes place over three sessions so the potential for real and strategic change is strong.
Concepts from the webinar:
In an animated presentation, Heidi focussed on the ways in which we might apply a refreshed pedagogy for contemporary classrooms, comparing elements we have retained from the past and those we have ignored.
This was demonstrated with a classic image of a “school photo” taken outside the front of an old, wooden, one-roomed schoolhouse. We were challenged to consider what we had kept from this era, and what we have chosen to forget.
This image (Vernon, 2015) (shared with CC attribution – non-commercial- share alike) shows the inside of such a school:
While this was no surprise, the forgotten element of this, a challenging (and much more “Reggio Inspired”) example of use that has not continued as this image (James) displays:
Heidi postulated that teaching has been largely directed by others, an issue we must address by seizing control back for ourselves (webinar meets Revolutions – I was delighted!).
In thinking about the non-traditional schoolhouse image, she pointed out that responsive environments don’t run on habit. She asked us to consider education from an empty chair and suggested that we need to consider the needs of the learner.
Hippocratic Oath as starting point:
She compared us to doctors, saying that their focus always starts with the patient. They also pledge to do no harm – something that has occurred for some students exposed to ill-directed theories, or by us focussing on the wrong things.
We must come work from a position of respecting our students and their learning needs and listen to them with understanding as social contractors.
No more C21st skills or “future ready” excuses:
Heidi challenged us to stop talking about twentieth-century skills – we teachers and our students know we are in it. In fact, we are nearly ¼ of the way in, so none of our students have experienced life in the C20th!
So what then?
We should discuss 3 literacies only – digital, media and global. We need to consider these pedagogies and question how well we are meeting our students’ needs. We need to farewell our final year students knowing that they are mindful citizens, innovative designers and global ambassadors ready to take their place as adults in the contemporary world.
She tapped into my History self again by referring to Socrates and asking what we should keep from his time.
She challenged us to review pedagogies we are using to move forward, as summarised in this image based on (Jacobs & Alcock, 2017, pp. 12-17):
We need to move from a classical to a contemporary construction of space and programs.
Here are some highly simplified statements that summarise her question: “How can we be more creative with our canvas?”:
Learning spaces versus cells.
Learning times versus bells.
Fluid, flexible spaces.
Consider spilling into the outdoors.
Replace seat time with proficiency so that credentials are the focus not hours in a subject.
See time as currency (which is the way the No Tosh team worked with Stephen, Sophie and myself in September) – make every minute count.
Where to from here?
My immediate challenge is to plan for the end of the Senior School Library renovation. How might we reorganise the Senior Library to create a modern learning environment?
The Junior School faces the challenge of altering their current Lower-primary curriculum to a Reggio Inspired model; and the return of Year 6 to the site, which will alter the whole campus learning environment.
What are the conditions that enable learning?
Starting from this question indicates a real belief in the value of the learning process. Considering everything from the perspective of the empty chair soon to hold a student is a good place to begin.
We need to work with each other and our students with mutual respect and renovate our curriculums in ways that allow us to be ourselves. We do not want our students to travel back in time when they come into our Prep classroom.
It was the most amazing, uplifting, challenging and inspiring way to begin my day. I have so many ideas running around in my brain that I don’t know where to begin the follow up action, but I have been motivated apply some of the concepts, and completing phase 3 of our Senior School Library, and potentially dealing with a significant change at our Junior School, I have plenty of room to manoeuvre. I am enthused!
Last year a colleague recommended that I apply for the MIEE program. I was in the middle of planning to head overseas on long service leave, writing lessons for my VCE History Revolutions class (a new course last year) and setting up instructions for managing the library in my absence, so I held off until this year.
The application process requires a number of steps, the most daunting of which is a two minute film explaining why you should be considered and what you will do differently if selected. Two minutes is not very long and the hardest part was knowing what to leave out. It was tricky choosing an appropriate “vehicle” to deliver the message, but my approach was to tell a story and weave in my experiences with products such as OneNote, Office Mix for PowerPoint, Forms, Outlook and Teams.
Along with the required number of accrued points within the Microsoft Educator Community, a Sway introducing myself, and my participation in online discussions such as Tweetmeets, I managed to be selected. As one of just under 90 Australians on the list I feel honoured, and humbled.
Approaching the events that 2017-2018 will hold is causing excitement and much anticipation. I am especially interested in the professional learning which I may be able to access and developing my skills to perform at a higher level in my school and beyond. The passion of those who are involved, or have gone before me is contagious!
This lesson will commence with a reading of Dust by Colin Thompson
An extract from the publisher’s description of this text:
“A beautifully illustrated book that sensitively looks at the themes of peace and social justice In a perfect world, this book would not exist. But we do not live in a perfect world. At any given moment of any given day, there are people dying from natural disasters over which we have no control. Beyond natural disasters we add disasters of our making, but even if we all learn to live in peace, there will still be millions of people who need help.”
This video will form the introduction partly because it is very pertinent of itself, but also because one of our Middle Years (Year 6 – 8) classrooms is named after Malala. These students may well be studying in that room in 2018.
It is interesting to stop and think about what we might be modelling to our students beyond actual subject teaching – something the school library needs to consider on a regular basis.
These are the targets that I believe we are working towards:
These three are probably the most obvious.
We are so lucky to belong to our College Community – with a long and proud tradition, a strong focus on health and well-being, dedicated and passionate teachers, and a well-established curriculum and pastoral care system based on Justice. We expose students to a number of world issues where these targets are far from being fully implemented and our opportunities to work towards these goals are provided through fund and consciousness raising.
Next, these two are related to each other:
Last year we had a display based on LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Intersex) Rights. The concept resulted from a member of staff attending a professional learning event at our local hospital. Up to date and relevant material was purchased, and a display space near the public phone, located in the Tower building, has been set up with relevant and medically approved brochures. We also focus displays at New Internationalist topics of note, and refer students regularly to issues relating to refuges and people fleeing war and or natural disasters.
Another set of connected goals which we model as well as teach can be seen in these three target areas:
The subjects we teach that cover these areas include Geography, English and Science. The way in which we live these are as follows:
paper recycling bins
Papercut is now controlling our printing – which allows for jobs to be cancelled if they are no longer required, and prevents students printing to all the printers in the school but only collecting from one. This has had a massive impact on our paper and toner use.
OneNote notebooks which are now ubiquitous across the Senior Campus are also saving us from printing as many work sheets etc.
We also consider the environment when we turn on the air conditioners, and lights – and determine the timing, temperature and duration of use based on necessity rather than just having them running.
Can you think of other ways that we are meeting these goals? If so we would love to hear them.
The logos in this article have been used as laid down in the UN Guidelines for use.
For a long time people have forecast the end of teaching as we know it – but surely we are entering an era where options will morph into something other than the known, something better, something more open and flexible?
In this short film, Christian Long raises a number of questions including:
What are the options tertiary students will face in 2025?
What will it mean to go to school?
He raises some questions that are unanswerable at this present time, but which will affect students currently at school, and for whom we are still providing something more like the experience of our medieval forebears,rather than the agility that the connected world provides.
He reminds us that it is hard to measure the return on investment for attending a tertiary institution now, let alone into the future, even if that is as close as his chosen time frame of eight years.
He challenges tertiary institutions to think about what they are and what they should be; university campus planning should allow for more agile uses, including partnering with other organisations. “Place” will be less bricks and mortar, rather than something that will form part of a fabric of choices ranging from face to face, several days immersion, virtual attendance, flexible spaces and incubators. Just in time learning at scale rather than a set time-frame resulting in a specific degree; adding up to an ongoing and learner driven life long education.
Our schools would do well to be thinking along similar lines.
We are living in an era where information is readily available, easily created, generally unedited or moderated, and widely shared. It is vital that readers have the capacity to appraise the calibre of content they encounter. Yet, it would appear that even students entering renowned universities cannot apply even the most basic of filters to images or documents presented to them (Weinberg, 2016).
Some simple starting points:
Without applying a filter, or lens to what we read we run the risk of spreading misinformation, thereby perpetuating deliberately created and often specifically targeted fabrications which may be destabilising to governments or undermining to individuals. Far from choosing to be part of such a process, many are inadvertently passed on because people aren’t taking the time to evaluate sources (Tiffany, 2016).
Teacher-librarians such as Valenza promote their role as critical in educating more news literate and savvy information consumers. Tiffany states that this is more effective the earlier that students encounter such educators (Tiffany, 2016).
Coupled with the relatively recent rise in the spreading of “untruthiness”, is the concept held by many that free press equates to neutral information (Valenza, 2016). History teachers are adept at demonstrating that the underlying perspective of the creator, or interpretation of the historian affects the way in which the information s viewed. Much harder to teach, however, is the effect our own attitudes and biases affect the way in which we read and often lead us to ignore viewpoints that differ from our own (Valenza, 2016).
Teaching younger students about appraising calibre and authenticating content is made a little easier by using a resource such as the TED talk on “How to choose your own news” (Brown, 2014) – an engaging animation.
There is no doubt that there has been an exponential increase in the publication of extreme, untrue and misleading “fake news” since the rise of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, partly due to the fact that the number of clicks may equate to real income for the posters (Garun, 2016). This poses a real issue for the founders of such sites, such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who has expressed concern at the site being forced into becoming arbiters of truth (Liptak, 2016). The sites on which such “untruthiness” is spread have become known for fostering click bait (Zimdars, 2016).
There have also been allegations that social platforms influenced election results in several countries in 2016 (Garun, 2016). This of itself may not be all bad – but it does indicate the serious need for teaching readers how to negotiate the publications of our time by understanding the underlying purpose of the publications to which they are exposed, and to question the authenticity of what they read, in much the same way that commercial transactions advise that the buyer must be aware. It is critical that leading universities such as Stanford do not continue to find that their students are vulnerable to fake news (Weinberg, 2016).
It is crucial that Australian students are able to learn within their own context about the ways this can be an issue locally, as well as seeing information relating to the United States in particular. We need to be developing Australian resources to support teaching the necessary skills.
As a teacher-librarian and History teacher I am up for the challenge – are you? Join the conversation at #truthinessEDU
On a recent visit to the United Kingdom, I visited the Cambridge Library (not the university version – the public offering) which is part of a large new shopping centre in the town. As with most modern libraries, it had lots of natural light and was furnished with light coloured shelving. There were large numbers of users of all ages, reading, using computers (their own or the facility’s) and consulting with staff. Staff were spread through the building and were proactive in offering assistance.
Materials were shelved as Fiction and Non- fiction in the adult and young adult section, and Fiction or Information in the children’s area. Face out displays were well used and material was generally shelved in order.
The adult section was diverse and much larger than the children’s collection space.
What I really liked about this library was its quiet sense of purpose, its focus on users, and the fact that books were shelved in precise order but obviously being well used as they were not pristinely upright!
Perhaps the lack of spine labels on Fiction materials leads to better attention to shelving? Something to ponder.