Sunday, February 25, 2007

Introducing the book (repost)

As an ICT Facilitator this video really resonates with me.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

David Warlick talks about Redefining Literacy

Today I am sitting with a select group of teachers in Dunedin attending a full day David Warlick Seminar. You would think after attending the Learning @ School Conference in Rotorua where I heard David's Keynote and then attended two of his workshops I would have had enough :-). David presents the importance of literacy and information technology so well that I could sit through quite a few more presentations.

The main part of this presentation that I want to focus on is the importance of 'redefining literacy'. I have always been a teacher who taught children to read through a passion for reading. Students learn when there is an authentic context and purpose for that learning. I have also always tried to get students to engage critically with the information that they are finding. This is even more vital now that students are coming across the wealth of digital information available to them today and I would like to state, much easier.

I see that a few people have just laughed out loud - easier! Ha! I say easier because of the authentic reasons for students to critically engage with information when they are becoming co-creators of information using web 2 tools. Students, as they become creators of information also need to become evaluators of information. Gone are the days when students cut and paste information from Google (or those days SHOULD be gone!). As students prepare their presentations for their movies, podcasts, additions to the wikipedia, etc, they need to ensure that the information they are presenting is correct. They need to think about the ethical issues of the information they are going to share with the world via the web. I say that this is getting easier because of authenticity.

My students have realised through posting their podcasts that if they post something incorrect someone will very quickly send them a comment alerting them to that fact. They learn through this that there may be errors in the information they find on the net and they need to verify their information through many different sources.

It is important that we teach our students to:

1. Verify information in many different ways. Check out the credentials of the author, find the information in other places - books, articles etc.

2. Contribute to the information on the web in an ethical manner. Students need to know that information never disappears from the web. Once it's there anyone can get access to it and use it in any way. If they post something personal about themselves, disparaging about others or just plain incorrect people will be able to gain access to that information in many years to come.

This is what is meant by literacy in the 21st Century. Literacy is not being able to read and write, it is being able to thoughtfully communicate.
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Friday, February 23, 2007

David Warlick Telling a New Story in New Zealand

I'm sitting in the midst of 1100 people in Rotorua New Zealand at the Learning @ School conference. We are listening to Educator David Warlick's Keynote. I have listened to many of his keynotes already even though I have never been in the same room as the man. David podcasts his keynotes and is one of the reasons my 14 year old son thinks I am cool. The last podcast of David's that I listened to was one where he interviewed his son about the multiplayer game 'World of Warcraft'. After that podcast I had a conversation with my son and he exclaimed, "You know about World of Warcraft!" I thought he was going to catch flies as his mouth hung open. I looked at him down my nose and answered, "Of course".

What do our children need to be learning today? A question asked by David Warlick. Is our new curriculum in New Zealand leading us to answer this question? Maybe it is... I don't want to be pessimistic but some teachers will still go on the way they always have and interpret any document to support that. I am optimistic that our new curriculum is a step in the right direction and innovative teachers will be having that conversation. How do we get the resistant teachers to ask themselves this question? I think the answer to that is to lead by example. Our passion for developing thinking, innovative students will make the difference.

"Being Master, creative, telling a compelling new story." Are we preparing our children like this? Or having them tell the same story in a new way? Do we need to take that step first? Of course we do but we can't stay there. We need to think of the students in our class as the surgeon who could possibly one day work on one we love, the pilot who might take us to new places, the policy maker who will make sure we enjoy a safe community. When you think of the students in your class in this way the importance of teaching them how to be creative, innovative and tell a compelling new story takes on a much more personal relevance.

Children believe that "everything is clickable, even their parents." Vinod Khosla. What an interesting concept. This resounded with me as I thought of how I was sitting in my office the other day furiously writing down something because my son had borrowed my computer. As soon as I had finished writing my fingers automatically made the movement to hit 'apple S' to save my work. I quickly looked around to make sure no one had noticed what I had done!. I also know that when I read a book now and I think to myself, "I remember reading about that already" and I want to click find and search the book. I already think that the world is clickable and accessible to me when I want it. Our Digital children are also feeling like they have control and can make their own decisions and discoveries. How do these children feel when they enter our classrooms and we limit their control in their learning? Do we offer them the concept of 'clickability' in our classrooms?

In the information age the information must compete for attention... If we don't supply students with the information they need they can get it elsewhere, if we don't supply students with the information they are interested in they will go elsewhere.

David mentioned the website - a website with where big corporations post problems that they can't solve. Anyone and everyone has access to this site and can try to solve the problems. The big corporations pay top dollar for the solutions and it has been found that the people providing the answers to these problems are not the ones who are trained in the specific areas. In this information age collaboration and conversation are rife on the web. Problems are posed and problems are solved. Discoveries are made and new conversations are begun. Once again... is this happening in our classrooms?

What are the answers to my questions? Well David says the first step to finding these answers is to:

Pay Attention - talk to the students, see what is happening in their rapidly changing world and how this is affecting them and the way they engage with their world.

Thomas Friedman says that four types of people will succeed in a 'flat world', those who are special, specialized, highly adaptable (those who can learn and unlearn and relearn very easily) and anchored.

David states that the future is not secure - but I ask, has it ever been? There have always been challenges to prepare kids for, but each generation's challenges are different. We need to equip our students to face an unsecure future and find answers to the challenges.

David states that we should prepare our students for a future of opportunity - I counter that this has always been the case but it is different now. We have no idea of the opportunities that we are preparing our students for. They will develop these opportunities and we will help them to do it safely and ethically and creatively in our 21st Century classrooms.

Thanks David for another thought provoking yet enjoyable keynote.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

How do I understand myself as a teacher?

Brookfield, S. D. (1995). Surprised by the familiar. IN S. D. Brookfield. Becoming a critically reflective teacher, (pp71-91). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Brookfield, S.D. (1990). Developing a personal vision of teaching. In The Skillful Teacher, (pp 15-28). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Loughran, J. (Ed). (1999). Researching teaching: Methodologies and practices for understanding pedagogy. London: Falmer Press. Chapter 8

The article by Russell and Bullock in Loughran (1999) was a real eye opener. Something I lamented in my previous entry was that finding a critical friend is difficult of perceived hierarchical structures within schools. This article showed that you can reflect on your practice in a way that does not reduce your professional standing. In this article a student and a lecturer each reflect on their teaching practice and what I see coming of this is not that one person is taking a superior position over another, but that they are listening to each other as they find their own path. Suggestions can be made, may not be taken, but it is the process of putting your reflections in a manner that can be understood by someone else that is the difference between half thoughts and full thoughts. Knowing that someone is interested in your journey helps make that journey less lonely. I liked the statements, ‘How we teach is the message’ and ‘How we research teaching is the message.’ (pg 151)

I was also inspired by the title of the Brookfield article (1999) “Surprised by the familiar”. It made me think of Freud and his idea of the ‘uncanny’, the situation in which something familiar becomes strange. This to me is the point of reflection. When we take a good look at our practice, there are many things we take for granted, that are familiar. These things may be just what we need to reflect on!

Reflection helps you to understand just how much you are learning and how much you are changing. It may not be evident until you take a good look. I was talking to a colleague this week. Lamenting that the longer I teach the more difficult the job seems to be getting. She gave me a pearl of wisdom. She stated that when we first started teaching we were unaware of a lot of the needs that our students had and we had a limited repertoire of teaching strategies. This meant that teaching was relatively easy. Now we know there are many ways to teach a subject and we can identify the myriad of needs of students in our classes, many of which we will never get the time to address. Being the diligent committed teachers that we are, we run ourselves ragged trying to do what we can. Now that I have identified the reason behind my difficulties, will I take steps to change?

Karl and Kopf make the observation that teachers often do not take the steps they need for change. “There is no support that the more people know about their behaviour, the more they will improve it.” (1993:309 in Brookfield 1999:82). This demonstrates why it is important to have a critical friend to help you stay on track.

I found the article by Brookfield (1990) quite depressing. It seemed to state that you need to find and articulate a personal philosophy of teaching to defend yourself and convince your students that you know what you’re doing. This was my take on the article. I do agree with the underlying theme though - ‘without a vision the people perish’. You have to know where you’re going or how will you know when you’ve got there?