How might we amplify disruptive thinking in education to bring about positive change in our community? – A #GTASYD moonshot.

As part of my moonshot from the 2014 Google Teacher Academy in Sydney, I am seeking ways to highlight disruptive thinking and ideas in education.

How did I arrive at this? A striking difference from previous academies was that a Design Thinking process was employed, as a vehicle to generate a problem for solving and creating sustainable change by educators who attend the academy. Attendees were encouraged to think about an area of interest and a “chunky” problem that they wished to solve. These ideas were to be brought to the academy for further investigation.

It was during the immersion phase prior to the academy and within the very early stages of the 1st day that I started to narrow in to an area of interest….that of system reform, hack schooling, or disruption in education from traditional norms and systems.

My overall sentiment on this issue is that often in schools we are bogged down by the day-to-day structures and internal / external forces and influences that dictate the learning for our students. Coupled together with fixed-mindsets, schools can be hard places to change, and at times,  difficult for re-imagination to take place. Whilst there are pockets of innovation happening around the globe, we can’t really say that education has hit it’s mass tipping point as yet.

This was confirmed during the synthesis phase where fellow attendees at the academy were grouped to think critically about their area of interest by using hexagonal thinking. The aim of the exercise was to think of the factors within the issue and consider where the links and connections exist.

Whilst the hexagons can be placed in an almost infinite number of ways, here is just one way of viewing the problem with all signs pointing to “conformity”. (Humorously, the group decided that the the surrounding factors around conformity were too many, so therefore justified the use of a 7-sided shape).

 

From this phase, we were encouraged to generate a question for inquiry. This was developed around the following structure: How might we (ACTION) (WHAT) for (WHOM) in order to (CHANGE SOMETHING). The question I have developed is:

  “How might we amplify disruptive thinking in education to bring about positive change in our community”

 

ACTION: Amplify – Encourage, highlight and celebrate were considered but to amplify means to make louder, increase, magnify, intensify, or heighten. I have chosen this word because I believe there are already great things happening in some schools which we should bring to the forefront for everyone to see, and that if we can create stimulus and aim to change mindsets in “laggard” schools then we might just reach a tipping point in education where we can realise a whole vision for the future of education.

WHAT: Disruptive Thinking – includes ideas, systems, process and models which throw away or “hack” the traditional norms of education and are not encumbered by the status-quo.

WHOM: Education – including all stakeholders. Educators, parents, students, systems / bureaucracy.

CHANGE SOMETHING: Positive change in our communities – This idea is two fold. First, that through disruptive thinking we are made aware of the possibilities for improving schools and ultimately students. Secondly, that the impact is not only on students in the present within their school and community, but for life and therefore making an impact on wider communities.

If this moonshot is to be a reality, I believe that we would see an incremental improvement in the conversations that take place around education reform, and the actions that schools take place around the globe to bring positive change in their communities (10x thinking).

I aim to make this moonshot a reality with a two pronged attack.

Firstly, I wish to make an impact within my own school community. I will need to consider the influencing forces in my school setting and the avenues to hack / rethink to improve opportunities for schooling. Having said this, I think my school setting does “buck the trend” from the status-quo in a lot of ways but there are always opportunities for improvement. Moreover, I hope to use these experiences as learning opportunities for myself and our school which can be shared to the wider community.

Secondly, I wish to examine what is happening locally, nationally and globally in education in regards to disruptive ideas. I aim to curate resources which highlight narratives of rethinking education which is not encumbered by traditional norms or influences. I also aim to share and provoke wider professional networks through teacher PD, conferences, and social learning networks.

Last week at the academy I created a Google Form and sent this out to my PLN. The aim of the form was to immerse myself in the problem again, and find out what other educators around the globe think about this issue. I am also using it to connect with people and to find out whether they are willing to help me curate some of the interesting ideas around disruption.

I have already received a number of responses from Australia and the US. If you are interested in helping this cause, I would love a response on the form below:

http://goo.gl/VvZyUH

Please re-share in your communities!

Dare to dream and discover empowerment – a #GTASYD reflection

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney. I had every expectation that the academy would be 2 days of high-energy thinking, mind-stretching paradigms, and dialogically rich conversations with existing and new-found members in my PLN. In this regard, the academy didn’t disappoint. As other’s have already pointedout, this year’s academy and possibly subsequent academies are taking a new direction in the way that attendees are selected, inducted and sent forth from the academy. Under the guidance and incredible facilitation of (NoToshTom Barrett and Hamish Curry, this year’s intake had the prowess and wisdom of previous Certified Teachers from Sydney 2013 as mentors. Attendees were supported by teams and were stepped through a Design Thinking process as a vehicle of empowering attendees to create sustainable change in school communities.

It goes along way to answering the question, “how do you personalise learning for 50 incredibly passionate teachers?”, let alone those who are already “Google Savy”. For me, the process was very suitable for exploring problems in our school communities and seeking the opportunities for positive improvement. It meant that teachers could tailor the two days towards their own visions for education and make something meaningful of it.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsA large part of the academy is to bring to fruition a Moonshot, that is, an incredible idea that could make all the difference yet is seemingly impossible.

In the early stages of immersion, themes were collected of all the topics that educators were interested in developing moonshots . Noting these it was interesting that they included common ideas in our professional practise like changing teacher / student mindsets, assessment, personalisation, leadership, learning spaces, pedagogy, curriculum development, change beyond the classroom, and even the notion of hack schooling or complete system rethink. Of all these interrelated issues, a similarity found in all was that they were about forces of change for the better of education.

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 My own moonshot that I have developed from the academy is along the lines of hack schooling, system rethink, and disruptive learning…more on those in another blog post!

For me, the Google Teacher Academy was incredibly energising. The most important part was not the fact it took place in a Google office, or  that we used / discussed Google tools, or even technology for that matter. The most important parts were the connections that were made, the challenging conversations that took place, and the energy and belief that gripped each of us in those rooms that we can make a powerful difference within and beyond our school communities.

At the end of the two days we were asked to develop a six-word memoir that encapsulated our feelings at that point. I believe the memoir I developed (Dare to dream and discover empowerment) is a reminder not only for myself, the community of GCTs but all educators…that we have a responsibility to ourselves and to grow the profession together.

Huge props to not only to Google Education Evangelist Suan for the GCT program, but also Chris Harte who has been an inspirational and provocative mentor for Team <x>.

So you think you are using technology to “Transform” learning?

At ISTE 2014 in Atlanta, I attended Alan November’s session on “Learn to Learn: First 5 Days of School”. Alan spoke about the opportunities within the first five days of the school year, and the range of activities and pedagogies that could be “invested in” during that time and carried into each term.

Whilst the topic of conversation was very interesting (See the November Learning resources and #1st5Days), there was something else that sparked an interest in me.

Alan showed a set of questions that he had been working on, named “Six questions to ask for transformed learning”. Alan’s point was that the we ought to consider more frequently how much of our use of technology IS in fact transforming classrooms. His questions could be used to “test” or analyse assignments, as one can easily get carried away in the urgency to use technology but not consider how in fact it is improving (or hindering) the learning process or opportunities.

Here are Alan’s questions in full:

1) Did the assignment create capacity for critical thinking on the web?
2) Did the assignment reach new areas of teaching students to develop new lines of enquiry?
3) Are there opportunities to broaden the perspective of the conversation with authentic audiences from around the world?
4) Is there an opportunity for students to publish (across various media) with an opportunity for continuous feedback?
5) Is there an option or focus for students to create a contribution (purposeful work?)
6) Were students introduced to “best in the world” examples of content and skill?

 

Upon reflecting on Alan’s questions I thought that they ring true; in that if the answer is no to all of the above, then there is a danger that technology has merely substituted the task and not transformed it in any way. Educators often talk about how apps or software are “transformational” because they are engaging or motivating, or personal devices that are in the hands of students hands lead to transformational “approaches”. For me, the transformative opportunities in today’s digital age with technology are when the technologies are used to connect, share and widen classrooms, which in my opinion, are scarcely met in a genuine sense.

 

 SAMR

 

According to the SAMR model above (Dr Ruben Puentedura), transformation occurs when the technology has allowed for significant modification of the task and / or created new opportunities which were previously inconceivable. For more on SAMR, see Kathy Schrock’s awesome guide.

 

So you think you are using technology to “Transform” learning?

Taking Alan’s questions, I have modified them slightly and improved the wording of them for teachers to use more succinctly to get to the heart of the question; so that they could be used to think about whether technology is indeed transforming learning and teaching in classrooms.

The first change you might notice is that I have modified the word “assignment” to task. Assignment to me brings connotations of a moment in time, a “project”, and often used as an assessment piece. To me the word task is a lot more applicable yet still suitable to learning opportunities in the classroom.

1) Does the task create capacity for critical thinking on the web? – The extent to which critical thinking and higher order cognitive skills are utilised WITH the web. The word “web” here is particularly important as it offers the opportunity to broaden perspectives, break down the barriers of place and time, and share and connect across communities.

2) Does the task enrich the possibilities for students to develop new lines of inquiry? – The extent to which the technology is used in a way that sparks curiosity and provides the avenues for students to develop and seek questions.

3) Does the task broaden the conversation via authentic audiences? – The extent to which the technology is used to flatten classroom walls and open dialogue and interaction between other students, teachers, parents, and the wider community.

4) Does the task allow opportunities for students to publish with the possibility of continuous feedback? – The extent to which the technology is used to publish student knowledge and synthesis with the opportunity of viewership and feedback from others without the restrictions of place and time.

5) Does the task allow opportunities for students to create contributions? – The extent to which the technology is used for questioning, moderating, collaborating and co-creating with others.

6) Does the task expose students to “best in the world” examples of content and/or skill? – The extent to which the technology is used to demonstrate high quality examples of the learning objective’s content and/or skills.

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Educators, what do you think? I would welcome you to “test” these questions to analyse tasks or curriculum against the SAMR model. Do you agree with Alan November? Would you include anything else in this set of questions?

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As part of my Google Teacher Academy application, I have made a provocation that can be used for critical and creative thinking about the opportunities of transformational learning with technology. This might be useful to view when planning for deliberate tasks, or consider when delivering of lessons, or for post evaluations and analysis of tasks or curriculum.

 

 

“What characteristics does Google look for in their employees?”

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The Google Apps For Education summit and all of it’s “Googly Goodness” doesn’t kick off until tomorrow, but this afternoon +Riss and I had the pleasure of attending a pre-summit tour of the Sydney Google offices hosted by +Suan.

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+Riss asked +Suan a very provoking question, “What characteristics does Google look for in their employees?”. His responses echoed sentiments of what Intel told us last year on the ACCE13 Study Tour, that Google employees are to be open minded to the constant of change, team players and collaborators, and skilled at finding problems and designing solutions.

For +Riss  and I it sparked 2 important questions. If education is to prepare our young minds for their future lives and to supply workforces:

how much of our teaching & learning is genuinely geared towards team work, problem finding, designing solutions and a healthy attitude for the unknown? Moreover, if teachers are not open-minded to change, how can they expect their students to be?

 

Taking these questions as a lens will be a great way to kick off tomorrow’s summit!

Are you the best teacher you can be?

This year, our school is fortunate enough to be participating in the Visible Learning Plus program; a guided change process of professional development and practice. Visible Learning comes from John Hattie’s work in what is quickly becoming influential worldwide. This is no surprise as it is the largest collection and analysis into evidence-based research that investigates what actually works in schools when it comes to improving learning.

I have been interested in Hattie’s work for some time and have taken some of his principles on board, mainly around calculating effect sizes, providing feedback, and constructing meaningful learning intentions and success criteria for students. But I am excited that our school is undertaking this approach so that all teachers can think more deeply about the impact on their teaching and learning with their students.

The article Know Thy Impact is a great and succinct read about Hattie’s work. His three books are also well worth the purchase.

Earlier in the year our staff was inducted into the program. One of the topics of conversation was the Visible Learning Checklist for teachers, which is a set of mind-frames for teachers to consider in order to make an effective impact as an educator. One of the mindeframes, “I seek regular feedback from my students”, stuck out in particular for me. In the last few years I have come to realize the merit of asking students for feedback on the teacher, but I don’t think it has been regular enough.

So this year I have been looking at ways of seeking feedback regularly. Using Google Apps (mainly forms and docs) has been a great way to collect feedback from students. Once a form has been setup, it is sent via a URL shortener and given to students. Students can easily enter their feedback, and the collection for the teacher is an absolute breeze. It makes reserving 2 mins at the end of the class really worthwhile, as you explain to students that their feedback will in turn make you a more effective teacher.

For me, seeking feedback assists in answering two critical questions when it comes to reflective practise, “what makes you an effective teacher?” and “how do you know your effect?“. I believe that educators can empower themselves immensely by listening openly to what students are saying about their practises.

Today I am speaking at Teachmeet Melb @ ESA on the notion of seeking feedback from students with and without technology. The presentation is called “Are you the best teacher you can be?” and the slides can be found here or below:

Digital Technologies Curriculum Summit @ Google

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Digital Technologies Curriculum Summit. Hosted by Google in Sydney, 25 fully funded positions were offered to any educator across Australia to be in attendance at the summit. I was fortunate enough to be 1 of those successful applicants, which was very humbling. As well as the 25 successful applicants, the summit also brought together representatives from primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, professional bodies, corporate entities (including Google) and even ACARA.

The purpose of the summit was to discuss the imminent publication of the Digital Technologies curriculum, collaborate in topical unconference sessions, and explore methods of integrating the curriculum and engaging students in Computer Science. It was a terrific opportunity to explore this area of the curriculum with other passionate teachers and important stake holders.

 

We were spoilt for inspiration by several keynote speakers and workshop presenters:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The positive efforts on Google’s behalf to support teachers in Computer Science can also be seen from their recent announcement of the launching of a MOOC involving  the University of Adelaide and Google. It is envisaged that this free online course will provide primary educators the skills and resources they need to tackle Computer Science with young students, a terrific move to support primary educators.

From this summit, there was an urgency emerging that we need to engage students in computer science, computational thinking, and digital proficiencies at a young age. Teachers and students alike need to look to role models and discover the real world applications of Computer Science, and realise the potential skill set for the work force of the present and the future. The two videos below that were shared at the summit illustrate this really well.

 

 

 

There was much networking, planning and forward thinking that occurred over the two days. I await, and am excited to see how this pans out and continues to evolve in this particular endeavor of education.

The hashtag #googledigiteach was the backchannel for the summit and a storify of all the tweets over the 2 days can be seen here.

 

What I learnt from our first Genius Hour implementation

As posted previously, this term we introduced Genius Hour with our students. Since that post a few months back,  students got started on their projects with much enthusiasm. Google Docs and Google Presentation were popular tools of choice for collecting and synthesizing information, particularly those students who were working in pairs or small groups. I was surprised at how easily students managed to share created files with one another in their Google Drive to allow real time collaboration and access to occur within the group, even though we haven’t spent a great deal of time going through the share functions within Google Apps.

 

It was extremely positive to see a high level of engagement and motivation during the term as students were working on their projects. I remember on one particular day during the term I had a PD to attend outside of school. In the afternoon I returned to find the whole Year 5/6 working on their Genius Hour projects. When I walked into our building, I found students in different spaces, not necessarily in their home class or with their home teacher, using various pieces of technology, from their laptops, to their mobile devices which they had brought in to assist them with their projects, to school video cameras to record and produce content. Not one single student was off task or disruptive (which is rare for an afternoon late in the week!), and is a testament to the deeply personal and motivating aspect of Genius Hour.

 

Despite this, it was not all fair sailing in terms of students persevering and directing their own process, and applying critical and creative skills to their projects. This was expected, particularly as observed in the introduction of Genius Hour, that not all students coped well with 100% pure choice and voice of their learning. Below is a slide from my Teachmeet presentation about our Genius Hour introduction which demonstrates what happened when Genius Hour was first introduced:

Nevertheless, these students were supported accordingly. By the end term, every student had completed a project and presented it to the year level (bar a few who left early on holidays).

 

In the final weeks of term an Open Expo Day for the projects was organised. Students completed a google form with their group members and included the question they were researching, and an appropriate theme / subject matter for their project. We were then able to organise the 5/6 building accordingly into sections according to areas, much like a museum. The areas that were finalised included:

  • Health
  • Society
  • Sport
  • Computer Science
  • Environment
  • The Arts
  • Science & Technology
All students and teachers from year prep to 4, as well as parents of the school community were invited in to have a look at the projects. The expo went for an hour, and some visiting students complained that they did not have enough time to see everything! The atmposphere in the building was electric, as 130 eager 5/6 students welcomed, explained, educated and shared with their visitors what they had been working on during Genius Hour. The feedback from visiting students, teachers and parents was overwhelmingly positive.

http://photopeach.com/embed/dk3sx9

One of the tasks that the students had to do before the end of the term was submit the projects so it could be displayed on the class blog. Another school also getting started with Genius Hour could then give our students feedback on their projects, and we could reciprocate in return. We used Form Plus to create a submission page where students uploaded their projects directly to a teacher’s drive account. We encouraged students to save their work as a PDF when possible to maximise compatibility for global viewers. Publishing content to the web was also a great opportunity to consolidate what students had learnt earlier in the year (around privacy, copyright, and citation of information) when they first received their laptop. The final projects can be seen from this blog post.

 

Annecdotally, the students have enjoyed Genius Hour immensely this term. We have asked them to complete a more formal evaluation of the Genius Hour program which I am yet to sit down properly and sift through. However, there is no doubt that Genius Hour engages and motivates students, promotes creativity, collaboration and true inquiry, and allows for powerful learning to occur from the access of their laptops.

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Moving forward from here…

Second time around – Next term we plan to allow our students to work on another Genius Hour project. I am sure this time it will be even better than last time as both teachers and students improve the process and are inspired from each other to put their mind to great things.

 

Providing templates – I would consider providing a presentation template to students covering all requested elements of their project. Despite this being communicated to them at the start of the term, students often omitted some of this information in the class presentations.

 

Privacy, copyright, citations, etc. – Needs to be taught again, as students have learned about this but need to apply it properly in context. Publishing Genius Hour projects is a good platform for this! A large percentage of students had to resubmit their final presentations after they were uploaded because they included personal information, had plagiarized information and/or images, or did not have correct referencing.

 

Marking / scoring – Although I am reluctant to provide a formal score or mark for work which is highly personal and creative, it may be worth considering something for the student presentation to the class. Even some guidelines or a quality criteria would suffice. This was something that was neglected and would lift the quality of the presentations.