Categories
Change Education Social Commentary Tech & Social Media

“The Robots Are Coming!” – Chatting with Dr Jordan Nguyen

A few weeks ago I had the fortune of speaking at an event alongside Dr Jordan Nguyen. And I was even more fortunate that we were able to catch up for a chat once his talk was done.

Jordan is a biomedical engineer, inventor, TV host and general all-round good bloke.

Having already invented a mind-controlled wheelchair, and being deeply invested in the development of Artificial Intelligence and the ethical considerations required when doing this, he assures me we’re safe from a Terminator-type outcome… for now.

We spoke about how his talents were largely left undiscovered at school, and how a freak accident enabled him to find his purpose and spark his intellectual journey.

You can listen to our chat here as part of my semi-regular spot on the TER Podcast. I hope you enjoy it.

You can find out more about Jordan at his website. 

Categories
Leadership Tech & Social Media Wellbeing

🎶 Tonight I’m gonna email like it’s 1999 🎶

This is an edited version of my latest School of Thought Column in Australian Teacher Magazine.

I started teaching in 1999, when within the school, communication was via the morning staff briefing and through memos or the like posted in my pigeonhole, that I might – or more likely might not – get to every day. And if something was really important, you’d go and find the person you needed to speak to and have a chat, face to face.

One of the biggest changes I observed in my time as a teacher was the proliferation of communication via email. I left teaching full-time at the end of 2012, at which point it would be a quiet day on the email front if I was receiving any less than 40 a day.

Today, I’m well aware that many educators are receiving far more than 40 emails a day, and this – to be quite frank – is ridiculous.

I say it’s ridiculous, because I’d wager that the vast majority of these emails require no action on your behalf, yet you’re compelled to read them, just in case. As a result you become distracted from your work with research showing it takes, on average, 23 minutes 15 seconds to get back on task. Ever wondered why you can sit for so long at your computer and get so little done?

Furthermore, due to the sheer volume of emails, many of you are forced to read them, just in case, just before you go to bed.

This impacts your ability to get to sleep. If, as a profession, schools are serious about teacher wellbeing – and it’s clear they certainly should be – then organisations need to recognise that it’s the day-to-day stressors that have a larger impact on teacher wellbeing than the one-off wellbeing day that might be offered.

If you have teachers who feel they need to check their email before bed, just in case, then I suggest you address this.

One way you might address this is to mandate a time after which no-one is expected to send or reply to emails – 7.30pm perhaps, or let’s go crazy, how about 5pm? Of course, if you can only get to emails after the mandated time because of family or other work commitments that’s fine, but can I suggest you write the email and then save it in drafts to send the next day, or use an app to automatically send it at the desired time. There is a big difference between receiving an email at 7:30am as opposed to 11pm. And you’re not really expecting the recipient to respond at that time are you?

Of course, you can argue and come up with scenarios in which this idea would be unworkable, but typically, these scenarios are not – or should not – be the norm.

In (almost) the words of Prince, “So tonight I’m gonna email like it’s 1999!”

I appreciate the irony that many of you will have received this as an email on the weekend

Categories
Education Media Tech & Social Media

[Still] struggling to get our head around social media in schools…

In February this year, I had the opportunity to ask over 1000 senior students from about forty schools across Australia, which statement best summed up how their school taught social media. I’m assuming schools would do this, as I can definitely recall a subject called Media Studies when I was at school back in the nineties…

I asked…

Which of the following BEST describes the manner in which social media is taught in your school?

a: It isn’t really

b: We only really get told what NOT to do

c: We are educated as to the power of social media to help us learn in school

d: We are educated as to the power of social media to help us learn, connect with others and develop a positive digital footprint.

This was the response [CLICK ON THE GRAPH TO ENLARGE]:

I then asked them whether or not they thought a Google (or your preferred search engine) search would make or break them, if a prospective employer chose to search for them online…

This was their response:

I think these two graphs present an interesting stimulus for a chat about how we approach social media in schools…

  1. Only around 70 senior students out of >1000 thought that an online search would stand them in good stead. This is a worry, as employers have been using online searches since the days of MySpace (remember that??)
  2. Over a quarter didn’t know what an online search would throw up.
  3. The vast majority of students thought an online search wouldn’t be an issue as there would be very little – if anything – about them online.

I wonder if we’ve taught kids that the opposite of a negative digital footprint is to have no digital footprint?

I also wonder if that’s because we haven’t really taught kids about social media. One of my most popular posts of all time was one I wrote back in 2012 called Driving Down Social Media Way in which I asked readers to imagine that we taught kids to drive the way we teach them about social media. In short:

1. Driving lessons would be taught by adults (teachers or parents) with little or no experience of driving.

Sure they may know of certain brands of cars or be aware of some of their capabilities. They may know it is illegal to speed or drive without a seatbelt, but in reality they have spent little time behind the wheel.

2. Driving lessons would only focus on what not to do.

An average driving lesson would entail students being preached to about the dangers of speeding, drinking driving or not wearing a seatbelt. There may be a little advice on how to keep you and your car safe, eg. regular service checks, installing an alarm and NEVER allowing a stranger to get into your car would all constitute sound advice.

3. Driving lessons would NEVER take place in an actual car.

In fact cars would be banned in the majority of driving schools. Students would be able to take notes, draw pictures or even present a PowerPoint on how to drive, but they would only be able to put these lessons into practice once they were out of sight of an adult.

It seems little has changed – which is unbelievable silly ridiculous bordering on negligent.

If you have the time or the inclination, here is a little spiel I gave in 2016 to some teachers on the subject… (it’s one of my favourite talks actually and please note the kids’ survey questions in this talk were from 2016, not the ones I cite in this blog post).

 

Categories
Education Social Commentary Tech & Social Media

DI$CLO$URE

dollar signA couple of months ago I was – along with other bloggers and “industry influencers” – invited by a large tech company to attend a free workshop showcasing their new tablet and software. They were happy to “donate” to me (and by extension I assume others) a tablet worth over $1000 in return for my blogging about how I used it in my work.

I declined.

I’ve been receiving these types of offers since people started reading my blog. Many start-ups recognise that bloggers/tweeters who – in return for swag* – blog/tweet enthusiastically about said start-up serve as an extremely effective PR team as they have the added advantage of appearing organic. (Seriously… go back and read that link – Educators… look who is the parent company!)

I decided from the outset to avoid such relationships with companies (it’s on my contact page, but some still ignore it). I figured if the four people reading my blog were reading it because they valued my opinion, the least I could do was make sure that opinion was as objective as possible. It’s also for this reason that I don’t take ‘referral’ fees from other speakers/consultants which is also a common practice. If I recommend someone to you it’s because I think highly of their work.

Now to be clear, I’m not saying that bloggers/tweeters shouldn’t engage with companies in the manner I’ve suggested above (although many educators and most state education departments do say that), rather I’m saying that disclosure is a must. In fact it’s  not just me saying it. Last week I asked Twitter what it thought…

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 4.05.51 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As expected the majority of respondents believed that disclosure was important but I was surprised that nearly 20% of respondents were not aware that this happened.

The fact that nearly 20% of tweeps who responded were unaware of this happening suggests a couple of things to me.

  1. Perhaps it doesn’t happen. Perhaps every blogger who is approached by a company turns them down, and I’m merely assuming the worst.
  2. Perhaps it does happen, but bloggers aren’t disclosing. Because I reckon if every blogger was disclosing then surely these 20% would have – at some point – seen such a disclosure.

And I’d really love to know the reasons behind the 4% voting that bloggers “need not disclose.” If you were one of them, please comment below – I’m interested in your POV.

I don’t know if bloggers and tweeters consider themselves broadcasters, but just as commercial broadcasters disclose their arrangements and relationships, (granted – some needed some encouragement) maybe budding edu-stars should do the same as it might go a long way to maintaining/enhancing their credibility as their stars continue to rise & shine.

[SIDENOTE]

When I used #aussieED in the original poll, I used it believing the hashtag identified teachers online who had an interest in Australian education, who as they were browsing, might stumble across the poll and have their say. However, as Brett’s tweet suggests, #aussieED is more of an entity than I’d realised, and as such I wish to stress I was not singling out the entity that is #aussieED or its founders/moderators.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 4.42.32 pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Swag* – Used here to describe anything that includes, but not limited to: high value products, low-cost/discounted products, travel, accommodation, a platform at a conference, sponsorship of events etc.

 

Categories
Education Engagement & Motivation Mindset Tech & Social Media Wellbeing

Developing a Minecraft Mindset

What’s in this post:

  • How I used Minecraft to discuss Mindset with kids for whom mainstream education doesn’t work
  • Access to the materials I created in order for you to do similar if you wish

Of late I’ve found myself working with kids from some fairly tough backgrounds.

Whether it’s kids who are wards of the state, living in temporary shelter, or kids in mainstream settings who don’t hold out much hope for their future, I’ve been keen to explore how Carol Dweck’s theory of Growth Mindset might apply to these young people.

Incidentally if you’ve read Mindset or not, I’d highly recommend getting a copy of Dweck’s earlier work Self Theories, a series of essays that go into more detail regarding the research and – in my opinion at least – is a better read than her more well-known publication.

Anyhoo… just last week I had the opportunity to try something with a group of kids who attend a school that caters for those for whom the mainstream education system simply doesn’t work. Some of these students (currently all boys in Years 6-8) have severe behavioural issues, some have wellbeing issues and most have a combination of the two. I’m fortunate that I get to spend time with these boys on a semi-regular basis and so have been able to establish a bit of rapport with them.

I determined that it might be interesting to play Minecraft with them… and just see what happens. I hypothesised that many behaviours that Dweck describes as being Growth Mindset behaviours would be evident whilst the boys played Minecraft:

  • seeking out and embracing challenge
  • persisting in the face of setbacks
  • revelling in the struggle
  • taking on feedback
  • and being inspired by the success of others

I then wanted the boys to reflect on this after playing… but first the set up!

The very first thing I did was tweet out what I was thinking of doing. If you check out the comments down the side of the doc you’ll see heaps of good ideas, that either validated or pushed my thinking. Thanks in particular to:

 @eduGrunt@nickpatsianas@jeffkuhn72@dbatty1@jokay and @SteveT_AU for their input.

In the end this is what I went with…

Equipment – Given I didn’t want to impose on the school with regards to organising Minecraft Edu accounts or the like, I sourced the following…

  • Samsung 10.1 Note running Minecraft PE (My 3 year old tablet)
  • 5 x Lenovo TAB 2 A7-10 Tablets ($97 each) Probably one of the best tablets in the sub $100 category
  • 1 x TP-LINK N300 Wireless Modem Router TD-W8961N ($47) I’d originally planned to network through my 4g hotspot, but then got nervous thinking about risk assessments and kids finding stuff they shouldn’t online… So the router serves to act as a network between the tablets without allowing access to the net.

I decided to set up a scenario as such using this website… (I’ve de-identified the school for privacy reasons)

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 5.50.56 pm

In order to set up the scenario in Minecraft I built a world using a seed… a simple internet search will give you plenty. For those of you interested, I used the Minecraft PE Seed: -94440.

Screenshot_2015-11-10-11-52-46

From there I was able to switch between creative and survival mode (I found that installing a mod called Too Many Items on my Samsung made this a much simpler process) in order to hide gems around the area, and ‘bury’ villagers as well as create the sort of havoc an earthquake might cause by detonating TNT around the place and setting fire to buildings… 😈

Screenshot_2015-11-11-17-35-12

The kids had three missions:

  1. To rebuild and enhance the village
  2. To find the buried villagers
  3. To find the stolen gems

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 6.10.28 pmIn the full Minecraft game (on PC, Mac or Console) you can use xyz coordinates that allow gamers to know where they are within their world, but in Minecraft PE this isn’t the case. So I created a map – again by going into Creative mode and taking a Bird’s Eye View screenshot and then overlaying a grid.

Students could work out the coordinates for the villagers and the gems by solving maths problems.Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 6.07.31 pm

Each group of students – small groups of 4 boys or so, which is the nature of this school – had around an hour. The last 10-15 minutes or so was spent on the reflection. Which again I put out on Twitter in it’s early form:

This was the final version. You’ll note I got rid of the sword (it’s school after all!), gave space for students to identify their own strengths (thanks to@corisel) and then scaffolded the transfer from Minecraft to ‘real’ life… (although Minecraft is real life of course! 😀)

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 6.14.38 pm

Was it a resounding success?

Let’s not go too far. It was after all a one-off session using the most basic version of Minecraft. I’m aware many of you will be using Minecraft Edu or the full PC-based Minecraft and as such will be doing much more advanced work.

But as the boys’ regular teachers noted:

  • Kids who would ordinarily not be able to be in the same room as each other were working as a team
  • Boys were running around the classroom to answer maths questions (I know, I know… it wasn’t in the risk assessment!)
  • They were talking about their strategies and what they would do to improve all day…

Some of the boys reflections were pretty powerful too – and I’m paraphrasing a little…

  • I realise that making mistakes doesn’t make me a bad person
  • I tell myself I’m no good at something before giving myself a chance to get good at something
  • I get frustrated when I can’t do something straight away

As well as working with the boys I ran the sessions to show the teachers the power of Minecraft – or games in general – in order to get students to address their behaviours and – more importantly – their thinking around their behaviours.

The staff are now investigating how they might incorporate similar approaches down the track.

Obviously if this were part of an ongoing approach we would be able to explore our mindsets in various scenarios. I’m not saying it’s as simple as being resilient in Minecraft means you can be resilient in ‘real life.’

But I am saying for some of these kids acknowledging they do exhibit these behaviours somewhere is an incredibly important first step.

Demonstrating through Minecraft that they do exhibit the kind of Growth Mindset behaviours that Dweck talks about is – for some of the students – the first time they or anyone else have recognised they are capable of doing so.

If you think this could be of value in you classroom, you can get all my resources for this activity here, meaning you can use the seed (-94440) along with the map I’ve produced, also please feel free to change up the reflection tool to suit your context.

Would love to hear your thoughts, or other cool ideas you have for Minecraft or games in general!

Categories
Change Education Engagement & Motivation Leadership Tech & Social Media

3 Common Myths About Innovation in Education

1. We’re innovative. The kids all have iPads. It's About Pedagogy, Not Technology

To do what? To do what you already did quicker, more efficiently or on a larger scale?

In many schools the power of the iFad or whatever technology has been wheeled into the school is compromised by the way in which they’re allowed or – more importantly – not allowed to be used.

Even if we adopt the higher order thinking of the SAMR Model, how innovative are we really being?

Innovating in schools is often equated to just increasing the amount of technology in the classroom – and this I think is to miss the point.

What if innovation in education sought to (genuinely) empower rather than control students?

Instead of behaviour management, what if we spoke of unleashing students.

What would innovation look like then?

Of course technology would play a part but so would where, when, who, what and how would you teach.

I’m of the opinion that many alternative education programs that work with kids for whom the mainstream education system hasn’t are some of the most innovative. I touch on this in my latest segment for the TER Podcast.

2. I’m too old to innovate – the young teachers have got it covered anyway

A knock-on effect of believing that the key to innovation is the increased integration of technology in class is that some staff feel they have little to offer.

Imagine if told you that you were too old to offer anything of value? You’d be offended right? And rightly so.

Yet there are many who tell themselves this very thing every chance they get. Every PD day, every staff meeting, professionals actively opt out these kinds of discussions as they see it as the realm of the younger teacher.

But here’s the thing, while new – or soon to be new – teachers may well be able to post a selfie on Instagram or fire off a quick self-destructing (in every sense of the term) video clip on SnapChat, many are not the ‘experts’ that some schools expect them to be around the use of technology and the Internet – and even less so with regards to embedding technology into an effective pedagogy.

So the very premise on which some choose to opt out of the innovation discussion is flawed.

Regardless of your teaching experience, you can be innovative. And yes perhaps having a crack at new technologies, combined with your knowledge and experience of different pedagogies, may just produce a light bulb moment for you, your faculty and your school but do it steadily… and if someone tells you to just jump in the deep end with technology- have them take a look at this post I wrote last year.

But be sure, innovation pays no mind to your age.

Regardless of where you are in your career you have a choice to contribute, push the boundaries or ask “Why?” or “What if…?” 

3. We need to innovate for the sake of our children’s future

Ok, this one isn’t necessarily a myth, but stay with me…

One of the most popular ideas I hear at conferences is that, “We are educating kids for jobs that don’t even exist yet,” or an offshoot from that is blog posts like the  Top 10 Job Titles that didn’t exist 5 years ago genre of commentary.

It gets the juices flowing but you have to be careful, because well-intentioned types will take that to mean the most popular jobs today didn’t exist 5 years ago, rather than it merely being a list of jobs today that didn’t exist 5 years ago. 

A subtle but important different – and even then, most of these jobs you can see have morphed from an existing job. They’ve hardly sprung up from nowhere.

As a little test, ask your students, or kids in your life what career they’d like – how many come up with a job that didn’t exist 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years ago? (SPOILER ALERT: I’m guessing not many)

So rather than using ‘the future’ as a reason to innovate – because things get a bit ethereal here and some can switch off – let’s start using the PRESENT.

Last year, Gallup surveyed 7000 students in Years 5-12 in 36 schools across six states and found that, roughly 30% of kids have disengaged from school by the time they are 11.

How about using that as an argument to innovate?

To compound things, over 50% of Year 12’s – and yes these are the ones that have STAYED on at school – are disengaged.

How about innovating to address this?

Categories
Education Engagement & Motivation Tech & Social Media Wellbeing Youth

Hear No Evil, See No Evil

Online

One of the most common questions I get asked by schools, is along the lines of how can we teach “Cyber-Safety?”

Leaving aside the fact I’m not keen on the use of the work cyber as whilst it may have suited our needs a decade ago, nowadays it’s pretty much irrelevant.

Why do I say irrelevant? Because the inclusion of the word cyber indicates that somehow these actions are separate from the rest of a person’s life. Take cyberbullying for example… the ramifications are not confined to cyberspace, they are very – for want of a better word – real.

OK, I didn’t really leave that aside did I?

Anyway, my biggest issue with teaching – let’s call it Digital Citizenship – instead, is that we rarely listen to what the kids actually want or need to know about or do.

Take for example a group of Yr 9 students I was working with recently, who all said they were worried about their privacy online, but their parents didn’t know how to address it, and their school didn’t want to teach it. The students said they felt that the response from the adults was, if you’re worried about it don’t use it. The adults in their lives didn’t understand that this wasn’t an option. They also felt they couldn’t report any instance of bullying or inappropriate stuff (sexting etc.) because that would just result in them losing access to their phones or laptops.

I’ve written before about the way Digital Citizenship, and in particular the use of Social Media is taught in school.

If we taught kids to drive a car the same way we teach them to use social media it would look something like this:

1. Driving lessons would only be taught by adults with little or no experience of driving.

2. Driving lessons would never take place in a car.

3. Driving lessons would only focus on the dangers of driving and what not to do

Of course we wouldn’t tolerate this, but this is often the approach taken in schools and the community.

If it’s a problem, increase the firewall or ban it. How long will it take for us to realise this approach is failing out kids.

They want to be responsible digital citizens, but we don’t hear that. We just assume they’re up to no good.

No one’s helping in ways they understand, or in ways that genuinely empower them.

Except perhaps…

If you are interested in exploring a more proactive approach to digital citizenship and/or learning in your school, then I would highly recommend getting in touch with Pip Cleaves at Design | Learn | Empower or Nick Jackson at Digital Leaders Australia – and no, I don’t receive a commission, I just really respect their work, and their ability to hear the student voice and engage accordingly.

Or if you just want to learn a little more about what kids are up to these days you could check out this site from ACMA, and yes, I am aware they use the word Cyber…. 

Oh well.

Categories
Change Education Leadership Tech & Social Media

When teachers say they’ve not heard of Sir Ken

A couple of weeks ago, I asked a room full of Australian teachers if they’d heard of Sir Ken Robinson. Sir Ken - Do you know who I am

One person tentatively raised their hand – and even then, he didn’t seem too sure.

I was seriously taken aback, not least because I use Sir Ken’s name in some of my promotional material!

Dan has appeared alongside the likes of…

But it got me thinking…  these teachers really haven’t even heard of him?

And just to be clear, I’m not saying we should all be kneeling at the altar of Sir Ken. Whether you agree or disagree with his arguments, hang off his every word or are a bit over the whole creativity thing is really beside the point.

The point is you’ve probably heard of him. But what about your colleagues?

If you’ve landed on this post courtesy of Twitter, I’m betting that you think I’ve made this up – after all Sir Ken has over 200,000 followers, most of them teachers. As if a teacher – let alone a room full of teachers – wouldn’t have heard of him. That’d be like Luke Skywalker not being au fait with Yoda’s body of work. luke and yoda

But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Twitter can be something of an echo chamber – that is – pretty much everyone is saying the same things about education over and over. With the constant reinforcement it’s easy to start thinking that this is how all educators think.

I believe that Twitter and other social media forums are the real drivers of professional learning – for those who connect – but what about the vast majority of teachers who aren’t connected in this way?

How do you spread the word to your less connected colleagues – in a way that genuinely influences the practice of your organisation?

And just in case you don’t know Sir Ken, check out this talk. And by the way, I’ve just been confirmed as a keynote speaker alongside him next year! 🙂

Categories
Education Leadership Tech & Social Media

“Just jump in the deep end!” – Worst Advice Ever!

SwimmingThere’s a reason I started to take my then three-year-old son to swimming lessons.

It’s because, left unattended, he would have – most likely – jumped in the deep end without the pre-requisite skills to live to tell the story. Neither he or his mum were too keen on that scenario. Hence the weekly lessons.

Just jumping in the deep end is a curious idiom. I can only assume it originated from swimming, but that would seem to suggest that someone did, at some point, believe this was the best way to learn.

Obviously it’s not, yet I see this advice – virtually on a daily basis – given to teachers who are new to #edtech, or for those of you not versed in Twitterese, Educational Technology.

By the way, this is a great video about hashtags! – Seriously, watch it.

Let’s think back to the pool.

You can’t swim, you get told to jump – or perhaps you are pushed – into the deep end. First thought?

OK, well after that one… your next thought is survival. You struggle, splash, kick without rhythm,  inhale water. Iyou make it back to the side, you’re unlikely to want to jump back in too quickly. Even less so if you have to be scooped out by a teenage lifeguard.

And what would you have learned during that time in/under water? The correct technique for the dolphin kick? A bit of bilateral breathing perhaps? Unlikely.

But what if, instead of being thrown in the deep end, you were encouraged to dip your toe. What if the coach got in the water with you? What if the coach guided you over a period of weeks, until such a point that you felt comfortable to jump in the deep end?

And then over time you were coached to further develop your techniques.

Of course that’s a better model. Not only for learning how to swim, but learning in general.

I’m pleased to say that my son’s swimming coach took that approach with him, so now as a 5 year-old, when he jumps into the deep end, my first thought isn’t to dive in after him, unless it’s a race of course. (No better way to teach him resilience that whoop him in a freestyle race every now and then!) 😉

It’s easy for us to tell people to just jump in as there’s no responsibility on our part. No accountability. No follow through. People either sink or swim – and if they sink, well perhaps it’s time they got out of the game altogether… 21st Century Education and all that…

Of course I’m not saying that people shouldn’t want to learn something new. Especially teachers. One of my favourite quotes from George Couros is:

If you’re done learning then you’re done teaching.

But we must realise that if people are hesitant with #edtech (or anything else that may be the flavour of the month in your school) they’ve probably got some very real reasons for that. Blinding them with all the benefits of using it will do little to sway them. Ripping through a staff meeting clicking and flashing multiple browser windows whilst speaking a language they barely understand will also be a waste of most people’s time, including yours.

You’ll only need a couple of sessions like this to lose them completely.

Let’s be more like good swimming coaches and less like scary old-school PE teachers.

Create a shallow end for learning, and rather than telling people to, just jump in the deep end, perhaps we can encourage people to just go a bit further towards the deep end. And let them know you’ll be there as and when they need you.

Categories
Education Social Justice Tech & Social Media

In the Sydney Morning Herald today…

Imagine for a second you’re booked in for elective surgery, and six months before the operation you’re told it’s your responsibility to provide the hospital with the surgical tools and technology required for your operation.

The Department of Health suggests if you can’t afford to pay for the equipment, perhaps you could organise a cake stall to raise funds.

Of course this is a ludicrous scenario. It could never happen. Or could it? If the health sector follows a trend taking hold in the education world, you never know.

Read my full article at The Sydney Morning Herald