What’s the point of education if Google can tell us anything?

Can’t remember the name of the two elements that scientist Marie Curie discovered? Or who won the 1945 UK general election? Or how many light years away the sun is from the earth? Ask Google.

Constant access to an abundance of online information at the click of a mouse or tap of a smartphone has radically reshaped how we socialise, inform ourselves of the world around us and organise our lives. If all facts can be summoned instantly by looking online, what’s the point of spending years learning them at school and university? In the future, it might be that once young people have mastered the basics of how to read and write, they undertake their entire education merely through accessing the internet via search engines such as Google, as and when they want to know something.

Some educational theorists have argued that you can replace teachers, classrooms, textbooks and lectures by simply leaving students to their own devices to search and collect information about a particular topic online. Such ideas have called into question the value of a traditional system of education, one in which teachers simply impart knowledge to students. Of course, others have warned against the dangers of this kind of thinking and the importance of the teacher and human contact when it comes to learning.

Such debate about the place and purpose of online searching in learning and assessments is not new. But rather than thinking of ways to prevent students from cheating or plagiarising in their assessed pieces of work, maybe our obsession with the “authenticity” of their coursework or assessment is missing another important educational point.

Digital content curators

In my recent research looking at the ways students write their assignments, I found that increasingly they may not always compose written work which is truly “authentic”, and that this may not be as important as we think. Instead, through prolific use of the internet, students engaged in a number of sophisticated practices to search, sift, critically evaluate, anthologise and re-present pre-existing content. Through a close examination of the moment-by-moment work of the way students write assignments, I came to see how all the pieces of text students produced contained elements of something else. These practices need to be better understood and then incorporated into new forms of education and assessment.

These online practices are about harnessing an abundance of information from a multitude of sources, including search engines like Google, in what I call a form of “digital content curation”. Curation in this sense is about how learners use existing content to produce new content through engaging in problem-solving and intellectual inquiry, and creating a new experience for readers.


Lessons in how to search. Students via bikeriderlondon/www.shutterstock.com

Part of this is developing a critical eye about what’s being searched for online, or “crap-detection”, whilst wading through the deluge of available information. This aspect is vital to any educationally serious notion of information curation, as learners increasingly use the web as extensions of their own memory when searching.

Students must begin by understanding that most online content is already curated by search engines like Google using their PageRank algorithm and other indicators. Curation, therefore, becomes a kind of stewardship of other people’s writing and requires entering into a conversation with the writers of those texts. It is a crucial kind of ‘digital literacy’

Curation has, through pervasive connectivity, found its way into educational contexts. There is now a need to better understand how practices of online searching and the kinds of writing emerging from curation can be incorporated into the way we assess students.

How to assess these new skills

While writing for assessment tends to focus on the production of a student’s own, “authentic” work, it could also take curation practices into account. Take, for example, a project designed as a kind of digital portfolio. This could require students to locate information on a particular question, organise existing web extracts in a digestible and story-like way, acknowledge their sources, and present an argument or thesis.

Solving problems through synthesising large amounts of information, often collaboratively, and engaging in exploratory and problem-solving pursuits (rather than just memorising facts and dates) are key skills in the 21st century, information-based economy. As the London Chamber of Commerce has highlighted, we must make sure young people and graduates enter employment with these skills.

My own research has shown that young people may already be expert curators as part of their everyday internet experience and surreptitious assignment writing strategies. Teachers and lecturers need to explore and understand these practices better, and create learning opportunities and academic assessment tasks around these somewhat “hard to assess” skills.

In an era of informational abundance, educational end-products – the exam or piece of coursework – need to become less about a single student creating an “authentic” text, and more about a certain kind of digital literacy which harnesses the wisdom of the network of information that is available at the click of a button.

http://theconversation.com/whats-the-point-of-education-if-google-can-tell-us-anything-44441

11 Habits of an Effective Teacher

I really appreciate teachers who are truly passionate about teaching. The teacher who wants to be an inspiration to others. The teacher who is happy with his/her job at all times. The teacher that every other child in the school would love to have. The teacher that kids remember for the rest of their lives. Are you that teacher? Read on and learn 11 effective habits of an effective teacher.

1. ENJOYS TEACHING.

Teaching is meant to be a very enjoyable and rewarding career field (although demanding and exhausting at times!). You should only become a teacher if you love children and intend on caring for them with your heart. You cannot expect the kids to have fun if you are not having fun with them! If you only read the instructions out of a textbook, it’s ineffective. Instead, make your lessons come alive by making it as interactive and engaging as possible. Let your passion for teaching shine through each and everyday. Enjoy every teaching moment to the fullest.

2. MAKES A DIFFERENCE.

There is a saying, «With great power, comes great responsibility». As a teacher, you need to be aware and remember the great responsibility that comes with your profession. One of your goals ought to be: Make a difference in their lives. How? Make them feel special, safe and secure when they are in your classroom. Be the positive influence in their lives. Why? You never know what your students went through before entering your classroom on a particular day or what conditions they are going home to after your class. So, just in case they are not getting enough support from home, at least you will make a difference and provide that to them.

3. SPREADS POSITIVITY.

Bring positive energy into the classroom every single day. You have a beautiful smile so don’t forget to flash it as much as possible throughout the day. I know that you face battles of your own in your personal life but once you enter that classroom, you should leave all of it behind before you step foot in the door. Your students deserve more than for you to take your frustration out on them. No matter how you are feeling, how much sleep you’ve gotten or how frustrated you are, never let that show. Even if you are having a bad day, learn to put on a mask in front of the students and let them think of you as a superhero (it will make your day too)! Be someone who is always positive, happy and smiling. Always remember that positive energy is contagious and it is up to you to spread it. Don’t let other people’s negativity bring you down with them.

4. GETS PERSONAL.

This is the fun part and absolutely important for being an effective teacher! Get to know your students and their interests so that you can find ways to connect with them. Don’t forget to also tell them about yours! Also, it is important to get to know their learning styles so that you can cater to each of them as an individual. In addition, make an effort to get to know their parents as well. Speaking to the parents should not be looked at as an obligation but rather, an honour. In the beginning of the school year, make it known that they can come to you about anything at anytime of the year. In addition, try to get to know your colleagues on a personal level as well. You will be much happier if you can find a strong support network in and outside of school.

5. GIVES 100%.

Whether you are delivering a lesson, writing report cards or offering support to a colleague – give 100%. Do your job for the love of teaching and not because you feel obligated to do it. Do it for self-growth. Do it to inspire others. Do it so that your students will get the most out of what you are teaching them. Give 100% for yourself, students, parents, school and everyone who believes in you. Never give up and try your best – that’s all that you can do. (That’s what I tell the kids anyway!)

6. STAYS ORGANIZED.

Never fall behind on the marking or filing of students’ work. Try your best to be on top of it and not let the pile grow past your head! It will save you a lot of time in the long run. It is also important to keep an organized planner and plan ahead! The likelihood of last minute lesson plans being effective are slim. Lastly, keep a journal handy and jot down your ideas as soon as an inspired idea forms in your mind. Then, make a plan to put those ideas in action.

7. IS OPEN-MINDED.

As a teacher, there are going to be times where you will be observed formally or informally (that’s also why you should give 100% at all times). You are constantly being evaluated and criticized by your boss, teachers, parents and even children. Instead of feeling bitter when somebody has something to say about your teaching, be open-minded when receiving constructive criticism and form a plan of action. Prove that you are the effective teacher that you want to be. Nobody is perfect and there is always room for improvement. Sometimes, others see what you fail to see.

8. HAS STANDARDS.

Create standards for your students and for yourself. From the beginning, make sure that they know what is acceptable versus what isn’t. For example, remind the students how you would like work to be completed. Are you the teacher who wants your students to try their best and hand in their best and neatest work? Or are you the teacher who couldn’t care less? Now remember, you can only expect a lot if you give a lot. As the saying goes, «Practice what you preach».

9. FINDS INSPIRATION.

An effective teacher is one who is creative but that doesn’t mean that you have to create everything from scratch! Find inspiration from as many sources as you can. Whether it comes from books, education, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, blogs, TpT or what have you, keep finding it!

10. EMBRACES CHANGE.

In life, things don’t always go according to plan. This is particularly true when it comes to teaching. Be flexible and go with the flow when change occurs. An effective teacher does not complain about changes when a new principal arrives. They do not feel the need to mention how good they had it at their last school or with their last group of students compared to their current circumstances. Instead of stressing about change, embrace it with both hands and show that you are capable of hitting every curve ball that comes your way!

11. CREATES REFLECTIONS.

An effective teacher reflects on their teaching to evolve as a teacher. Think about what went well and what you would do differently next time. You need to remember that we all have «failed» lessons from time to time. Instead of looking at it as a failure, think about it as a lesson and learn from it. As teachers, your education and learning is ongoing. There is always more to learn and know about in order to strengthen your teaching skills. Keep reflecting on your work and educating yourself on what you find are your «weaknesses» as we all have them! The most important part is recognizing them and being able to work on them to improve your teaching skills.

There are, indeed, several other habits that make an effective teacher but these are the ones that I find most important. Many other character traits can be tied into these ones as well.

LAST WORD: There is always something positive to be found in every situation but it is up to you to find it. Keep your head up and teach happily for the love of education!

http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/11-habits-effective-teacher

What Education Technology Could Look Like Over the Next Five Years

In a fast-moving field like education technology, it’s worth taking a moment to take stock of new developments, persistent trends and the challenges to effective tech implementation in real classrooms. The NMC Horizon 2015 K-12 report offers a snapshot of where ed tech stands now and where it is likely to go in the next five years, according to 56 education and technology experts from 22 countries.

TRENDS

Deeper Learning: The expert panel identified several long-term trends that will greatly influence the adoption of technology in classrooms over the next five years and beyond. They see worldwide educators focusing on “deeper learning” outcomes that try to connect what happens in the classroom to experts and experiences beyond school as an important trend.

Teachers at the cutting edge of this work are asking students to use technology to access and synthesize information in the service of finding solutions to multifaceted, complex problems they might encounter in the real world. The popularity of project-based learning, global collaborationand integrated learning experiences is driving this trend and powerful tech use as an extension of it.

Rethinking Traditions: Educators are also rethinking how school has traditionally worked, questioning everything from school schedules, to how individual disciplines are taught and how success and creativity aremeasured. This macro trend to shake up typical ways of schooling is opening new opportunities for technology to play an even bigger role in education. Finland took a big step toward reimagining school when it did away with many traditional subjects in favor of interdisciplinary classes that more accurately reflect a world in which disciplines influence one another. Some U.S districts have also tried to reimagine how school would look with movements toward competency-based models that don’t rely on time in class as the constant variable.

Collaborations: In the next three to four years, experts see collaborative social learning and a move to transition students from consumers to creators as big trends in education technology. Educators have long known learning is a social process — when teachers and students create meaning together, often the results are much more effective. The NMC Horizon reporthighlights four principles of collaborative learning: “placing the learner at the center, emphasizing interaction and doing, working in groups, and developing solutions to real-world problems.” Working in this way necessarily pushes students to create solutions, rather than passively consume content, lectures and lessons handed out by teachers. Access to mobile technology especially has helped students feel comfortable in the role of digital creator.

Blended Learning: Blended learning, or the use of technology alongside in-person instruction from a teacher, has been included in the NMC Horizons report before. Now, experts see it as a short-term trend that is quickly becoming common in many classrooms and is driving many efforts to integrate technology. STEAM programs, in which teachersintegrate the arts and humanities into teaching about science, technology, engineering and math, is also a short-term trend driving technology.

CHALLENGES

Authentic Learning: As with any changing industry, there are many problems standing in the way of effective technology implementation. Some problems are already being solved in creative ways by educators setting an example of the way forward, while others are more difficult and haven’t yet been solved. One challenge that persists in mainstream education is how to create truly authentic learning opportunities within the bureaucracy of schools. As with other education buzzwords, many schools believe they are providing authentic learning, but they don’t offer the apprenticeships, vocational training and portfolio-based assessments that often characterize work that carries larger life lessons.

2015 K-12 Report Topics Graphic

Professional Development: Another challenge being met in some places is how to incorporate technology into teacher-training programs. When teachers don’t use technology in their classrooms, it’s often because they don’t feel comfortable with it or don’t see how it enhances their teaching.Exposure during teacher training would help seed good practices early and ingrain digital literacy as an important skill for students to learn. As things stand now, many teachers receive professional development around technology platforms that often turn over or are replaced by something else. The report notes, “This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that digital literacy is less about tools and more about thinking, and thus skills and standards based on tools and platforms have proven to be somewhat ephemeral.”

Personalized Learning & Teacher’s Role: Two of the much more difficult challenges facing tech integration are effective strategies for personalizing learning and reevaluating the role of teachers in education. These two challenges go hand-in-hand, as they require a complete re-engineering of the school experience, rather than tinkering around the edges of traditional school. Many school leaders believe that by using technology and adaptive software to allow students to move at different paces, they are offering “personalized learning.” But the experts behind this report caution that, “this approach may be indicative of personalized learning solutions being sold to schools as a mass commodity that helps them raise standardized test scores, ultimately missing the goal of making learning a more meaningful experience.”

The value in “personalized learning” lies in student autonomy and individualized instruction and support, not in the control and compliance model required to achieve high test scores. If this more radical and child-centered definition of “personalized” is to be achieved, the role teachers play also need reimagining. With online interactions facilitating collaboration for both students and teachers, and learning taking place at all times of the day online and off, a lot is being asked of teachers. Their guidance is no longer confined to school hours.

The report points out that teachers are no longer information distributors, but their new role has not always been well defined or supported by education leaders and policymakers:

“In ideal situations, the teacher’s role is becoming that of a mentor, visiting with groups and individual learners during class to help guide them, while allowing them to have more of a say in their own learning. However, these types of interactions and the enabling use of technology are not always inherent or sufficiently integrated in pre-service training.”

Scalability: The really thorny challenges — those that are “complex to define, let alone address” — provide food for thought. Experts identifiedscaling innovative technologies and approaches as one intractable dilemma. Educators are familiar with the frustration of trying to break through rules and bureaucracy to experiment with innovative ideas. While inspiring teaching is happening all over the world, in many cases it does so in pockets, due to the tireless work of a dedicated educator, and not as part of mainstream education.

A similarly tricky problem lies in how to teach students the complex thinking skills that will be required to nimbly move through future challenges. One way educators are trying to cultivate these skills is through computer science and coding. However, coding alone won’t solve all the problems of the world, and as long as traditional school remains siloed into discrete subject areas, it will be difficult to allow students opportunities to tackle truly complex problems.

DEVELOPMENTS IN ED TECH

BYOD/Maker Movement: In just one or two years, experts predict Bring Your Own Device policies and makerspaces will be commonplace in schools. A 2014 Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) survey found that 81 percent of surveyed schools either had a BYOD policy or planned to implement one. These policies reflect the reality of students’ lives and can also cut down on school technology costs. Similarly, the popular Maker Movement and increasing emphasis on hands-on learning has propelled school makerspaces into the limelight. School leaders see these spaces as a way for students to take initiative: designing, prototyping and building their ideas from start to finish.

3-D Printing: The report notes that in the next two to three years, 3-D printing and adaptive learning technologies will have become mainstream school technologies. Experts believe 3-D printing offers tremendous opportunities for students to explore objects and concepts that might be difficult to experience in school. The printer can help students visualize mathematical graphs and models or touch replicas of historic artifacts. Low-cost online design tools and cheaper machines are helping to make 3-D printing accessible to schools, while project-based pedagogy is making it popular.

Adaptive Learning: Adaptive learning refers to software that adjusts to students’ learning needs as they use the product. Increasingly, this kind of software is being used to allow each student to move at his or her own pace. The idea is tremendously appealing to some education leaders, while others worry that relying on software to recognize student needs will actually diminish the personalized attention from an educator that each student deserves.

While the authors of the NMC Horizon report feel adaptive learning could soon be a game changer, they caution that the software may not be sophisticated enough yet to meet educators’ dreams. Instead, the authors posit its best use may be to analyze macro-level data on the effectiveness of curriculum and instruction.

Badges and Wearables: On the long-term horizon, experts see digital badges and wearable technology as important technology developments in four to five years. Badges are already being used to recognize competence in a skill in digital spaces like Khan Academy. Increasingly, schools are looking to badges as a way to validate informal learning for both students and teachers. While not yet pervasive, badges could offer a more comprehensive way to certify learning opportunities, inside and outside of school.

NMC Horizon reports have highlighted wearable technology in the past, pointing to learning opportunities in virtual reality experiences and the potential for biometric devices to teach about nutrition and exercise. Now, educators around the world are beginning to use wearable technology to push limits and offer creative outlets, but use is not widespread. Experts note one place that wearable technology could have a particularly large impact is on disabled students.

http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/06/29/what-education-technology-could-look-like-over-the-next-five-years/

From Visible Thinking Routines to 5 modern Learning ROutines

I have been a fan of Visible Thinking Routines which were developed by Project Zero from Havard, for a while now. I have used these routines with students, as  blogging routines and in professional development workshops.
vtr1

vtr2

vtr3

vtr4

The Visible Thinking Routines website explains that:

Routines exist in all classrooms; they are the patterns by which we operate and go about the job of learning and working together in a classroom environment. A routine can be thought of as any procedure, process, or pattern of action that is used repeatedly to manage and facilitate the accomplishment of specific goals or tasks.[…] Classrooms also have routines that structure the way students go about the process of learning

As I am trying to make 21st century, modern, contemporary or  “now” learning visible, it seemed a natural step to point out “Modern” or “Now” Learning Routines.

Here are my 5 routines that promote modern learning:

modern-learning-routines
Read more at: http://langwitches.org/blog/2015/01/11/from-visible-thinking-routines-to-5-modern-learning-routines/

Best Websites for Teaching & Learning 2015

he 2015 Best Websites for Teaching & Learning foster the qualities of innovation, creativity, active participation, and collaboration. They are free, Web-based sites that are user friendly and encourage a community of learners to explore and discover.

http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards-guidelines/best-websites/2015