Changes in education

Interactive learning is a new web site dedicated to improving student performance through interactive learning. Here teachers can find how schools are integrating technologies into the classroom to enhance the thinking and learning.
There is a very interesting article which gives a ten year update on technology and education. The article points to how, after 30 years with technology in the schools, there has been a lack of change in the classrooms:
"The reality is that advocates have over-promised the ability of educators to extract a learning return on technology investments in school. The research studies now suggest that the error was not in citing the potential of technology to augment learning – for research now indicates that the effective use of technology can result in high levels of learning. The error was in underestimating the critical need for the system changes required to use technologies effectively in learning."
Here in New Zealand, we have a similar scenario. Although we have some schools where change is evident and the teachers are using the technology as a tool in their classrooms to build 21st century skills we also have others where the technology is used as a 'reward' for good behaviour or for word processing a story but little else.
I was teaching some students in an intermediate school last term. The students in this group came from every class in the school and were learning new skills to be able to show others in their class as well as using the skills in their own learning. Every Web 2 tool I went to use with the group was either blocked or was not able to be used properly on the school's network - very frustrating for the teachers wanting to use these technologies. Staff professional development was offered to the teachers in this school on a needs basis and was held before school in the morning. Few teachers took up this offer 'we are too busy in the mornings getting ready for the day'.
The research states that the real potential of the technology has still not been realised in education.
"Overall,across all uses in all content areas, technology does provide a small, but significant, increase in learning when implemented with fidelity and accompanied by appropriate pedagogical shifts. While this is generally encouraging, the real value lies in the identification of those technology interventions that get significant positive results that warrant investment."

Someone just sent me a link to a story in the Mail Online about a school in Kent requiring the parents to help buy iPads and interactive whiteboards - the whiteboards will link to the iPads.

Some experts are criticising the school for pressurising the parents to pay for the ‘toy’ and are questioning the school’s desire to use iPads as an educational tool – they contend iPads are more suited to watching movies, surfing the internet and playing music.

Obviously it is not just New Zealand schools who are looking at using the iPads.

What is the important part of this idea is that the teachers are trained in using the technologies and are able to integrate these into the classroom to enhance the thinking and learning.

Authentic Portfolios

Listen to this article. Powered by Tech Learning has a story about Authentic ePortfolios which, the story suggests, are being developed after leaving school! The story goes on to describe how to set up an ePortfolio for the 'real world'.

Here, in New Zealand, we have many schools (primary and secondary) who are using ePortfolios through MyPortfolio.

An ePortfolio can be used as an online collection of reflections and digital Artefacts (such as documents, images, blogs, resumés, multimedia, hyperlinks and contact information). Learners and teachers can use an ePortfolio to show their skills, their learning and their development. These can then be shared with a selected audience.

An ePorfolio allows the learner to build reflective activities through blog functions and the creation of diaries in which users can reflect on their learning and experiences over a given time frame or activity. This can then become a two way process with a teacher or peer providing feedback via the same diary.

The three Ts

I have been reading, in our local newspaper, that handwriting may become obsolete and that schools of the future may concentrate on The Three Ts rather than The Three Rs (for those of you who don't know what the Three Rs are - Reading wRiting and aRithmetic). The Three Ts refers to Typing, Texting and tapping. As I read this I was filled with dread and hoped that we were not going to throw the baby out with the bath water. Handwriting is a skill that we use a lot in many different ways.

I decided to see what other people were saying about this topic and found an article from The Tribune newspaper which reassured me. In this article the author points to some emerging research (from Indiana University) showing that handwriting "increases brain activity, hones fine motor skills and can predict a child’s academic success in ways that keyboarding can’t."

Here are some of the reasons this article referred to as to why handwriting is important:
  • Handwriting may change the way children learn and how their brains develop. In the Indiana University study researchers used scans to measure brain activation in preschool children who were shown letters. One group of children then practiced printing the letters; the other group practiced seeing and saying the letters. After four weeks the children who practiced writing showed brain activation similar to an adult’s. The printing practice also improved letter recognition.
  • Handwriting may be faster. Researchers in another study (from the University of Washington)tested children aged seven to ten and found that children compose essays faster when using a pen rather than a keyboard. In addition they found older children wrote more complete sentences when they used a pen. This study as also shows that forming letters by hand may engage our brains thinking differently rather than pressing down on a key.
  • Handwriting aids memory. By writing yourself a list or a note you’re much more likely to remember the list rather than if you just tried to memorize it.
However technology may help invigorate the practice of handwriting as applications that allow users to hand-scribble notes on a touch screen rather than paper may be useful tools. Researchers are working on software to help improve handwriting.

A guidebook for change

The Technology for learning web site has a book to download called A Guidebook for Change.

In today's world there are many ways of using communications, media and digital technologies. Our students are using these in their everyday lives but often not as part of their education. Our learners need to use these skills as well as the traditional skills. Schools can embrace these technologies to help improve student achievement.

This book is a guide to help teachers. It is based on real-life successes and can help teachers whether they are new to these ideas or have already embraced them.

The classroom using ICT to enhance the thinking and learning

Scott McLeod (video - Shift Happens fame) is currently visiting from Iwoa University. He has been saying that classrooms need to change and that the days of pupils sitting at desks listening to the teacher have gone. This is something I have been saying for over ten years and yet as I go round in schools I still see the traditional style of teaching in the classrooms.

Scott advocates that we must transform our classrooms into collaborative, technology driven, interactive teaching spaces. He argues that today's learners should be working with others from around the world on real inquiry or problem based issues, pursue topics they are interested in and be content creators rather than regurgitators. He says:

In a really robust, collaborative classroom where kids have good technology you often can't tell where the front of the room is, as teachers roam around helping small groups and the kids help each other. There is a lot of learning power that comes with these new technologies and we need to help teachers understand that power and how they can take advantage of it.
Christchurch Press Saturday Feb 21

He acknowledges that the transformation will be expensive but asks the question: What happens if you don't do it? He suggests that the schools who don't will be left behind in the global economy.

Mission Heights, a school in Auckland is teaching in this way. This is a new school which was set up to take advantage of the technologies.

Using video to evaluate the student teacher in the classroom

I have just been reading about this 'new' idea - using video to evaluate the student teacher in the classroom situation. This article is from the States.

Here in NZ this is something we used to do and also something we used to get students to do for their own personal critique. Students found that they learnt a lot watching themselves teaching although many couldn't believe it was 'really them' they were watching. The advent of the Flip video, ipod touch with camera and the like make access to videoing and editing assessible. Now many NZ schools do not like our students using videos in the classrooms due to the New Zealand privacy laws.

In some states in USA the students will have:
"more demanding requirements to receive their teacher license: Under a new
teacher evaluation system being tested in 19 states, evaluators will watch video
clips of student teachers delivering lessons in their classroom, and candidates
must show that they can prepare a lesson, tailor it to students of different
abilities, and present it effectively
These assessments are made by independent evaluators rather than the Teaching Colleges. It will be very interesting to see how this goes. As one professor said:

“It’s a big shift that the whole country is going through,” said Misty Sato, a University of Minnesota education professor who is helping to adapt the assessments for Minnesota. “It’s going from ‘What has your candidate experienced? to what your candidate can do.”

I am very strongly of the view point that our graduates need to know both about and how to teach. I wonder, if in the present environment, some feel that the theory (about) is more important than the practical (how) i.e. the 'about' rather than the 'how'. We are in the middle of changing our courses and are now lecturing in mass lectures rather than smaller classes (where people are able to model behaviours that can be used in a classroom).

Seems that those in the states have now gone through most of this circle and are bringing more 'how' back into their courses. I saw a newsclip in Sydney two years ago on the same thing - 'we think it would be beneficial for our students to have time in classrooms rather than lecture theatres' was the the person being interviewed said. We are not up to that realisation yet, I wonder how long it will take us?

New Learning

Kalantzis and Cope (2008) have an article on the Curriculum Leadership web site. This is well worth a read. They are discussing the changes that are happening in education. They ask the questions "what will learning be like and what will teachers' jobs be like?" This is something that fascinates me as I am sure that there are going to be a lot of changes in the near future but just what the classroom of tomorrow will look like I am not too sure.
They discuss eight dimensions of learning today that may help to formulate a theory and practice of New Learning. These include; locations of learning, tools of learning, outcomes of learning, balance of agency, significance of difference, relation of the new to the old and the professional role of the teacher.
Another article I have been reading on a similar vein is by Rachel Bolstad. Rachel and Jane Gilbert wrote a book Disciplining and drafting, or 21st Century Learning? Rethinking the New Zealand Senior Secondary Curriculum for the Future . They have used a series of graphics to illustrate how students 'navigate' through their secondary school life. These graphics helped me to clarify these concepts.