Saturday, 7 February 2015

Key elements for 21st Century Learning

Danielle Vandenberg recently posed this question on Twitter....

Immediately, relationships came to mind. Relationships set the tone of any effective learning space, whether it be an Education or Business environment. Yet, it is not the only key element. Relationships could be flourishing, however if resources were not made available can one learn, process and improve? How do we define resources and why? These branching questions led me to believe there is no one key element but key elements....and anyway, what exactly is 21st Century Learning??? 

I tend to grapple with the term 21st Century learning as if it is something to strive towards and achieve. 

We are in the FIFTEENTH year of the 21st Century and there is still so much talk about moving towards 21st Century skills and learning. 

These terms are bantered around frequently. I wonder how those outside the education sphere perceive such phrases and Eduspeak? Do various stakeholders hold a common view about "21st Century learning and skills"?  Do they see any relevance in these conversations or the need for education to change? Are they content in the final product schooling produces? Does it meet their business and societal needs? As a society are we delivering? The paradigm shift is occurring. Is it being embraced by society? Do they know it is occurring? As a profession do we need to do more to help educate the wider public towards an understanding and appreciation of the paradigm shift?

I am also uncomfortable with the terms classroom and teacher. I prefer learning spaces, facilitator of learning or if need be, educator.  Learning should not be confined to "classrooms", rooms for classes. Learning can and should happen anywhere, anytime. Embracing risks, innovation, connectivism, entrepreneurial studies, learning for whole community, continual learning journeys, blending school with the world of work, metacognition, workability skills, productivity, Social and Emotional learning are areas I like to focus on.

Danielle's question instigates another, albeit similar:

How do we successfully enable our youth, via the education space to navigate an uncertain and yet hopefully exciting and promising future?

This certainly demands a very different approach. Most educators would accept education has moved from strong knowledge acquisition to a skill based approach. A suite of competencies and a personalised environment where no one size fits all is the goal. Interpersonal skills, knowing HOW to learn, how to access information and what to do with knowledge takes centre stage for todays learner. This leads us to return to Danielle's question "What's your key element for an effective classroom?" What makes for an effective learning environment? The following elements spring to mind: 

  • supportive and skilled facilitator of learning
  • safe learning environment (feeling open to learning opportunities)
  • awareness and recognition of the importance of life long learning
  • critical thinking skills
  • communication skills (on and offline)
  • digital safety and digital skills
  • creativity skills
  • flexibility
  • collaboration
  • productivity skills
  • partnerships (family, business, community)
  • computational thinking (problem solving, decomposition)
  • adapting to change
  • ability to play, explore and discover
  • time set aside to just be
  • access to technology
  • sharing practice
  • embracing real world context

Why act within silos of specialisation? Kudos to primary schools, PBL projects and secondary schools who often design learning, blending a variety of traditional KLAS (Key learning areas). Kudos to the students who drive their own educational agendas grasping responsibility for their own educational journey. Kudos to the educators that get out of their way! Kudos to the teachers who maintain an open growth mindset and endeavour to inspire, support and facilitate rather than indoctrinate. 

There has been a need to re-image the learning space. The morphing is occurring.

Keeping the conversations flowing,

#28daysofwriting #blogpost5 #bloggingchallenge

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Connectivism and the benefits of PLNs.

 (This post is part of the #28daysofwriting blogging challenge. As I am just back from the airport and it is 11:20pm, I am using a previous post I wrote on another blog last year)

Connectivism is also known as the learning theory for the digital age and was introduced by two publications in 2005. George Siemens “Connectivism: learning as network creation” and Stephen Downes “Introduction to Connective Knowledge.”  
The Theory emphasises that knowing WHERE  and HOW to find knowledge, is just as important as knowledge itself.
The theorists argue that knowledge is always evolving, concepts altering or becoming obsolete. Connectivism views learning as a process of creating connections and expanding networks. Networks are usually observed with nodes and connections, as can be seen in the image above. Possible node formations are organisations, information, data, images and feelings.

Principles of Connectivism include:

  • knowledge is distributed, accessible and diverse.
  • learning is more critical than knowing
  • maintaining and nurturing connections is required to facilitate continual learning (PLN: Professional learning networks)
  • deciding what to learn and the if the knowledge is accurate and up to date is key. Discerning knowledge.
Gloabalisation has certainly allowed connectivism to flourish with advances to telecommunication, transport and infastructure. Of course, humans have connected over long distances in the past, however these interactions have been fraught with inconsistencies, lack of speed, reliability and limited resources such as technology.
Allow me to share a story. As a teen, I travelled with my family to Queensland for the World Expo’88 (theme “Leisure in the age of Technology“). The Expo also celebrated the 1988 Bicentennial celebration of European Settlement in Australia. Here I was exposed to many wonderful pavilions from the 36 participating nations. The expo opened my eyes to spaces and cultures, tastes and sights. It was experiential learning at its best. The learning that occurred was far more greater than anything ever gained from my parents prized set of World Book encyclopaedias at home, textbooks or activities at school! The International Penfriends association were present and as an eager and engaged teenager I signed up to be connected with 10 others from around the world. We were asked a number of questions to ascertain hobbies,interests and values. From memory, this was entered into a computer board in the pavilion. Around the globe others had already engaged in the same process. My name was also placed on 10 other lists. I was connected with friends in China, The Netherlands, Estonia and USA. Some letters were never returned. Others flourished into meaningful and long lasting friendships. I am still in contact with Agnes from Estonia and Margo, The Netherlands, who I have fortunately met four times.

We have shared our lives through school, higher education, relationships, the world of work, marriage and family.   
Where we once needed to wait an excruciating 6 weeks for snail mail to receive news of the recent boyfriend saga or acceptance of a new job, we now connect instantaneously via Twitter, FB, SMS or email. The joy of “conversing” through Facebook inbox in real time at midnight in Sydney (afternoon in Europe) with Margo and Agnes for the first time, has always been treasured. I remember posting a USA money note as a souvenir to a Penpal in China who bought a pair of jeans, 4 loaves of bread and a vase for her Mother with the money!  As a coin and note collector, I was sharing a souvenir, not thinking for a moment the value of that note was worth so much to her when it was just small change here. Writing letters and exploring my world via the Penfriends iniative allowed me to improve my literacy, draw upon various stories for inspiration with creative writing and gain a tremendous appreciation of cultures. Without realising, I was practicing skills for the future world where connectivism is now key to engaging and meaningful learning. 
“Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people (undated).”   Karen Stephenson.
Technology has certainly reorganised how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn. It is an exciting and opportunistic time. A time to build capacity in ourselves and our networks. To share and to grow. To explore; play; be challenged and to disrupt. We know that learning is a continual process and that as adults we no longer have the one career throughout our adult life. Connectivism is needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.
Many learners will move into a variety of different, possibly unrelated fields over the course of their lifetime.
George Siemens
Informal learning is now a huge part of the learning landscape. Creating and maintaining networks via social media is an effective means to creating PLNs (Professional Learning Networks).
People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy.
Oliver Goldsmith
Keeping the conversations flowing,
Yours, JJ

Jeannette James

#28daysofwriting #blogpost4 #blogginchallenge

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

My takeaways from today

A simple and snappy post today to ensure #worklifebalance is embraced. 

Call to mind "What's your WHY?" 

When we start a new role or meet new teams for the first time, people often ask What's your story? What was your previous role? How did you find your way here? It is good to stop and reflect upon this more often.

Passion and clear focus is infectious.

I meet some amazing people today! People who were people focused, clear in vision and innovative. People who don't accept the status quo. People who ensure effective change happens. People who build efficacy in others. Inspiring. This charges my batteries! Their passion and focus is infectious.

Share practice. Not only best practice. Just share. Keep talking. Keep sharing.

There are thousands of schools in Australia. Some we hear about often, others we never hear about. School leaders, staff and students experience a multitude of learning moments that we could all learn from. The norm for you, could be a breakthrough moment for others.

Knowledge is treasure. But practice is the key to it.

We can read, listen, think and build on knowledge for only so long. Action is key.

#28daysofwriting #28minutes #blogpost3 
Keeping the conversation flowing,
Jeannette James

Monday, 2 February 2015

Vary your students world!

During my time as a TAS teacher (Technological and Applied Studies) I begun 95% of my first lesson with a new group in a similar way. I created havoc. Before the class, I would pull down the blinds, close the doors and literally turn the tables and chairs upside-down, on top of each other, against the door and in random positions. It was chaotic. It was a mess and in no way did it resemble a traditional learning space. 

Once the time came for the lesson, I would meet the class outside (via another exit) and greet them. I would explain that they were welcome to enter our learning space keeping in mind four simple guidelines:

  1.  Do not touch anything
  2.  Enter in silence
  3.  Find a place they felt comfortable to learn 
  4. Wait for further instruction.

I would then open the door and observe. What the students saw was unexpected and challenging. The students normal passage into the class via the door was blocked by the chairs and tables. This was confusing to some and terribly exciting for others! This is what would occur over the 20 odd years I shared this activity with my classes:

  • some students would stand back and wait, unsure of what to do next.
  • others would take the Gung Ho approach, and attempt to move the chairs and tables away.
  • others would shout NO! Miss said not to touch ANYTHING!
  • others would shout AND, she also said not to TALK! 
  • some crawled under or climbed over the desks and chairs.
  • others followed and then forgot about the guidelines and automatically turned a chair around the right way to sit.
  • others would complain they couldn't sit on the floor and roll their eyes thinking "This teacher is crazy..."
  • others would find a spot without fuss and eagerly wait the next adventure, happy that this lesson was a change from the norm.
  • some remained outside not sure what to do, until I invited them in, saying it was okay to crawl under or over the furniture.
Such a simple little exercise with huge impact. It was fascinating to watch the leaders emerge, to observe very quickly those that were passive and unsure and see who actively listened and was able to focus on the set task. 

After the students were settled, I began asking questions. What happened to this space? Does anyone know? I came in after period 3/lunch/recess and found this mess? The suggestions that followed always made me chuckle!  Very imaginative, some colourful, some mysterious, some unsure as to where this lesson was heading! Those 10 minutes engaged the group. They were curious. I would then explain that I did in fact know what had happened and I was the one responsible. "Miss! You must have been really angry!" "Why did you wreck the room Miss?"  Why do you think? I would reply. Suggestions would be thrown around the room. I would ask the passive students to take a guess. This set the tone for the class. They knew I would not let a few louder students dominate and would be seeking everyones participation. The students also learnt how I felt about effort and giving things a go, even if they made a mistake. I clearly made a point in using the students names and thanking them for contributing. 

After this, I would ask the students "Why are average classes set up the way they are?" "Why is the teacher's desk and board at the front?" "Why can't I sit here or here?"  "How do you think the room should be set out to ensure it is comfie for you?"  "What is the door and window the shape they are? Why do architects design the building the way they have?" After discussing their responses, the students were then asked to change the room into anyway they collectively agreed upon in 4 minutes. I would just sit back and watch. Who took the lead? Who was lazy and moved one desk and just plonked themselves down? Who clearly articulated their plan? How did the class work out a plan? And lastly, when they were done I asked them "Why did they decide on that arrangement"  

This simple activity gave the students ownership towards their space, their voices were heard and most importantly it was an opportunity for the students to see me as a teacher who spiced things up. It was the beginning of a feeling. The feeling that I cared about them and their world. I would love to hear of other ideas. How do you vary your students world? 

#28daysofwriting #28minutes #bloggingchallenge #post2


Sunday, 1 February 2015

#28daysofwriting Blogging Challenge

Has it really been a whole year since I last blogged? This came to my attention after Phillip Cooke @sailpip  asked his #PLN for support around his aim to blog more regularly. What should I blog about? How often? What would be of interest to others? It was then I thought "I wonder when my last blog post was?" "Did I even blog last year?" (2014) Like others, I enjoy blogging.

  • It is a great capture. 
  • A resource to return to and share. 
  • A time to reflect personally and gain a pulse of others thoughts, ideas and opinions. 

I now find myself at 11:32pm writing my first post since 1st December 2013.
It is the first day of February and along with some buddies from Twitter, I have joined the 

#28daysofwriting blogging challenge 

set by @tombarrett. Read more about Tom's challenge here. Basically, to encourage regular blogging and if one is to accept the challenge. write for 28 minutes for 28 days (of February). Simple, right? Wwwweeelllll....! It is now 11:37pm and I am determined to meet the opportunities of the challenge and stick to 28 minutes. BUT, having not logged into my blog or written a blog post for over 13 months, I am a little rusty! 11:39pm.. Linking and uploading images takes time!

Like most things on Twitter, I came across the #28daysofwriting via Louisa  @LouisaJRennie and Jason @Borto74 Even though I follow Tom, I hadn't yet read his Tweets about the challenge. I immediately thought great idea! Exactly the discipline I need right now! Absolutely! Encourage me to get into the habit of blogging again! Gotta love Twitter! I was excited about this challenge!

As the quote above emphasises, challenge brings growth.  I am always up for a challenge. I do not shy away from the unknown. I embrace change. I am up for the challenge Mr Barrett. I Thank You for this refocus and excitement towards blogging once again. I kinda missed it!

Keeping the conversations flowing 

(11:51pm. Nothin' like some last minute blogging. Almost Midnight here #downunder on the very first day of the challenge. Think I should plan some #bloggingonthebus to work tomoz!)