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Posts Tagged ‘learning

Yesterday I responded to a query about how flipping drives discovery and student-directed learning.

Today I answer a question about how students might not discover the “right” content by discovering or Googling. I have a few responses.

The first is doing away with the notion that students “get it” only when a teacher delivers content. This is merely an illusion because there is no indication or confirmation that learning has happened.

My second response is that one way to be more certain about student learning is to get students to create content and to teach it. These processes help both students and teachers to see evidence of learning.

My third reply is that teaching wrong content happens anyway, not just in the flipped classroom or when you facilitate flipped learning. Both the student and teacher can be guilty of this. However, when the learning is visible the teacher can jump in and intervene.

Three dimensions of flipped learning.

This is why I include content creation and peer teaching in my model of flipped learning.

Peer teaching is something that instructors can do with strategies like think-pair-share, any variant of the jigsaw method, and class presentations. Content creation might be viewed as a prerequisite for this form of teaching. Without artefacts students have nothing to show during the tell.

However, content creation does not always have to be on the teacher scale or standard. The content that students create can also be externalisations or manifestations of what is in their minds. These can take the form of short reflections, practiced problems, recorded conversations, summary documents, etc.

My fourth response is to agree that simply copying and pasting Google search results may not be valuable learning. Most teachers tend to focus on content from an expert’s point of view. This is how they judge if content is good or not, and right or wrong. However, this is not how a learner processes information because s/he does not have structure.

The structure is put in place by thinking processes. So instead of just focusing on content (what artefacts students find and use), the teacher should also model processes of learning. For example:

  • How do I look for information?
  • How do I verify information or evaluate it?
  • How do I incorporate it into my own work?

This response is not unique to flipping. But a focus on process over product is particularly important in flipped learning because one desired outcome is students who are more independent learners.

Yesterday I reflected on my long-running integration of Padlet in my courses and workshops. I intend to share screenshots of two sets of takeaways and questions from participants at the end of a workshop on flipped learning. I address one concern today and another tomorrow.

Flipped learning takeaway and question.

One concern was whether students uncover content in the way the teacher intended.

I am glad that the participant used the word “uncover” because that was something we practised during the workshop. Uncovering is based on discovery and not on the traditional notions of a fixed curriculum, recipe-like strategies, and narrow outcomes.

This does not mean that the process is haphazard. In the past, I have described the implementation as creating serendipity.

One way to design the learning experience is to envision a large plot of land in which you have buried opportunities for learners to unearth. They not only dig up treasures (content-based learning about), they also figure out how to problem seek and problem solve (skills-based learning to be).
 

 
My reply to the query is that a strategy like flipping is a means of transferring the ownership of learning to the students. While the teacher is concerned with curriculum, schemes of work, worksheets, and other standard practices, these are not always congruent with the overall design and ultimate goal of flipping.

To put it simply, the standard terms, practices, and tools that a teacher is comfortable with are not necessarily what learners understand and need. The teacher may be armed with a spoon to feed; the students need shovels and other more varied and complex tools.

The teacher may be prepared to deliver; the students need to discover. It is inevitable that the scope of what the teacher expects will be much narrower than what the students discover.

Returning to my analogy of the plot of land with buried treasure, what if students discover relevant and useful nuggets elsewhere? What if they go beyond just digging (e.g., clicking on links in web quests) to surveying with drones and satellites (e.g., Googling, YouTubing) or communicating with previous treasure hunters (e.g., tweeting content experts, consulting Facebook contacts)?

One concern that teachers might have is what if students unearth the “wrong” things? I address that concern tomorrow.

A few months ago, I tweet-wondered this out loud.

I ask again: If we can now work just about anywhere, what could modern offices offer?

As an educator, I also ask: If we can study anywhere, why do the majority of classrooms still look like classrooms? Why do they not look more like a Starbucks, as this educator envisions?

Mindsets. They not only shape thoughts and behaviours, they dictate design and implementation.

Let me give you an example. I still get requests for contacts for vendors who can construct “special rooms” in schools.

NIE collaborative classroom in 2009.

NIE collaborative classroom in 2009. Photo by William Oh.

There are not many good reasons to have special rooms. Having a place to show off when visitors come a-knocking is not a good reason. Having an excess of funds is not a good reason to build a special room.

Having rooms that challenge pedagogy, perplex teachers, and enable meaningful, powerful learning is important. But do we need special rooms to do that? What messages does that send if we do?

Every room should be special. That way they become ordinary and accessible to all. Every teacher should have professional development to learn how to integrate technology effectively. Every student should be consume and create because of technology-enabled learning.

To do any less is to make lame excuses while spouting 21st century rhetoric.

I felt privileged to play active roles in SSI Enables 2016, an event held yesterday that was organised under the umbrella of the National Council of Social Services, Singapore.

Delivering my keynote at SSI Enables 2016.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Chan.

I was the keynote speaker on social media-enabled PLNs and a panel member on how to move a system forward.

I do not think I have ever walked away from a keynote and thought to myself that the session was perfect. I invariably look critically at my performance and wish I had used a better turn of phrase or had done something else.

However, I walked off the stage feeling very satisfied yesterday.

The audience gamingly got involved in the pre-keynote activities of taking part in a poll and completing a word cloud in AnswerGarden. During the keynote, the backchannel often scrolled faster than I could read.

During the panel session, the organisers took my advice to use a free tool, Dotstorming, to raise questions that could be voted up. The audience took to it like fish to water.

During the panel session, at lunch, and during my interaction with various people, I received reinforcement, validation, and positive comments. For example, I kept getting feedback from different people that they had never before experienced learning of that kind and quality. That was high praise indeed.

Social service meets social media-based learning

But all that time I thought I was just saying the ordinary:

  • The timeless competencies are learning, unlearning, and relearning.
  • All three are enabled by social media — particularly Twitter — in personal learning networks (PLNs).

This was a reminder that:

  • An old message can be a new one to someone else.
  • Keynotes can be interactive and involved if you design for learning, not for speaking.
  • Panel sessions can be less like a fishbowl and focused more on answering participants’ questions.

I still have some unfinished work even though the face-to-face component is over. While I have processed the questions in the backchannel, I have yet to analyse and answer the 50 or so questions that were raised in the poll. I will do this while I am away at a conference next week.

I am going to have an interesting upcoming three weeks of work.
 

 
This week I conduct a seminar on personal learning networks (PLN). The following week I fly off to a conference to facilitate a discussion on flipped learning. After I return from that trip, I remotely mentor a group that formed as a result my talk on flipped learning in the UK last year.

I designed the PLN seminar like I do all my previous ones: As high on audience interaction as possible and to create cognitive dissonance. I aim to un-lecture.

The conference overseas will be interesting as I have no idea who I will meet. I typically get to know participants by polling them beforehand. But I know that whoever attends my session will be there because they want to, not because they have to.

While the first two are face-to-face encounters, the third will be a Google Hangout. I have only met one participant via Twitter and do not know who the rest are. But the remote session will be a cosier one than the first two.

I reflect on how such a variety of experiences seemed to fall on my lap. They did not because I was critical with my choices. I said no to the opportunities that looked good on the surface. I said yes to those where I could bring value and get value.

Don't say

Earlier this week I mentioned to two people that I think that “lifelong learning” is often misused.

What some people mean by that phrase is actually continuous training (which is linked to compliance) and skills upgrading (which is linked to productivity). Both of these are more like schooling.

If we are honest about it, we do not learn very much from school. Try to remember what you learnt in school or what you really use now that you picked up from school. Not much.

You learnt much more outside of the confines of school or school-like environments. If we are to truly learn over a lifetime, it is to self-actualise and to educate ourselves. It is not to be schooled.

School did not teach me to state and share the CC photo with which I created this image quote. I learnt about CC after graduate school and taught myself to do this.

When I hear teachers talk about “connected learning” I ask for examples. If they have any, their stories sometimes tell me they do not understand and practice connected learning.
 

 
One story might read like this. As a teacher, I collect the best work of my students and share it via photos at a class website, Instagram account, or Pinterest board.

Another story goes like this. I ask for contacts somewhere else in the world to Skype with. After a fair bit of “Can you hear me? Can you see us?”, we have a “cultural exchange”. Sometimes this is a wonderful showcase; most times we do this once or twice a year.

Still another story, and an increasingly common one at that, is “Yes, I’m on Twitter!” and “I tweet around events!”.

None of these are good examples of connected learning in my books.

A teacher who shares student work is being more open and that is good. But openness is not the same as being connected. You have to be open enough first to want to connect, but that does not ensure connectedness.

If that same teacher does not encourage or even prevents her students from sharing their work on their own, then that teacher has not enabled connected learning. That teacher might have opened selective student work to others, but she has not opened channels for communication and collaboration.

Such channels should be open any time, every time, and all the time. Using Skype periodically gives teachers control over such “connections”, but that does not allow learners to legitimately and authentically connect with each other.

Teachers who mistakenly think that once in a blue moon Skyping is connected learning should ask themselves: Is the show of connection more important than the natural curiosity and social interaction kids have?

Putting on a show is, sadly, becoming more common in the edu-Twitterverse. I meet people who are Twitter zombies in that they come alive only when it suits them intermittently instead of giving to others continuously.

We should all question what connected learning means because there rarely is a shared understanding or practice. In 2014, I highlighted four aspects of connectedness (infrastructure, social, content, wider world). Some aspects might be obvious, some not. But they help question the assumptions we make about “being connected”.


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