You can just sit there


Image: WeCoffee

You do not have to be doing all the time. You don’t have to always be trying new technology, software, ideas. Sometimes you just have to sit with what you have. Your brain and mind learn from repetition and practice and an opportunity to engage with educational theory. You have to allow time for the new things you have been learning to percolate into your system and practice so they take hold as real change and knowledge. It’s the action of repetition which then leads to refinement because you are thinking about what you are doing and then have the time and space to improve and enhance. In many respects it is the theory of games. You go over and over certain aspects of the game until you have mastered the skills and ideas. Then you level up and take on new knowledge and ideas and work on those. It is no different with classroom technology. There has to be time where you just do what you do with technology so you can see how to get the best out of it and then know what you are looking for next or can embrace the next stage in implementing a different approach , idea or device with technology. ReSit therepetition and practice then  talking about it , sharing, lead to growth.


The Seinfeld Guide to Bloom’s Taxonomy

I use Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy all the time. It is stuck on my filing cabinet in my classroom.  I have been a bit of a fan of Bloom’s Taxonomy ever since I heard about it. With technology there are so many ways to represent Bloom’s Taxonomy. A version for every learning style and approach. Zaidlearn has a great collection of the digital versions of Bloom’s Technology. I am also a bit of a fan of Seinfeld  so this version of the taxonomy appeals to me. There was a Seinfeld episode where George does the opposite to free himself as a person and it is one which has stuck in my mind .It has given me a great way of changing myself when I am stuck and can’t think of anything else.

Dysfunctions of a professional learning community

collaborationImage: Science in Action

This post is a response to a challenge put on the Teaching and Learning in South Australia Facebook page. The page looks at aspects of the South Australian Teaching for Effective Learning framework. We were asked to read Steven Weber’s Five dysfunctions of a professional learning community and reflect on it. I have done a lot of reflecting around the TfEL and have reflected before about my PLN. That presentation needs to be updated since my network has changed and expanded. So what do I think about the dysfunctions of personal learning communities? I have used Steven Weber’s headings.

Dysfunction #1: Lack of Norms

If you consider the meaning of community , then I prefer the ecological one:

A group of interdependent plants or animals growing or living together in natural conditions or occupying a specified habitat

and the mass noun one:

The condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common

Teachers working together in a community to improve the learning outcomes for students can be strong independent units and can develop a natural way of sharing their ideas and experiences or they can be put into a group situation where they are expected to work in a specific area of pedagogy.

This is where the norms are important. It is important to be open about how that community will operate if the group doesn’t naturally function co operatively. Some groups are better than others. Most groups do not go through norms clarification. In that sense there is an assumption people will know how to relate and exchange ideas. This is not always the case and formal attention to norms invariably smooths that over. In my experience online communities can come together more productively than real life ones since electronic media force you to focus on content and communication rather than all the other peripheral issues of real life groups where you do have to go through what the communication processes are , what the attendance expectations are, what the outcomes are to be and then what the level of input is for each member of the group. Online that is clear and it is a choice of whether you are present or not and how much you contribute is up to you. You are not distracted by personalities, habits and comportment of others. Online communities gather with a prepublished agenda and the focus is 100% on that agenda.

Dysfunction #2: Lack of Team Goals

Goal achievement is more readily accessed in real life teams. The action plans, the ideas generation and the implementation are all concrete things for people to discuss ,develop and do. Online teams are looking more generally at issues, ideas, approaches and can clarify methodology and theory well. Real life teams can achieve solid practical outcomes with clarity because they have more time if the expectations are clear. Online teams can clarify all the reasons for doing these things and ensure that individuals who participate in the discussion come out of it knowing more than when they went in. Virtual teams support the individual who then will become a more confident and more able real life team member.

Dysfunction #3: Lack of Trust

from Steven Weber’s article:

According to Lencioni (2007), a lack of trust “occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses, or needs for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible.”

I only agree with the second part of this but trust is a very big issue in teams and not one which is easily overcome if the trust is not there. Online you can become a target or someone can attack your ideas and some would just wilt and pull out of the discussion. That achieves little. In a real life team it largely comes down to how open and straight forward the team members are and whether there are common goals and ideas and whether there is a hidden agenda or power hierarchy. No one has to be in an online team but an online team is good back up if your real life team doesn’t suit you well. Teachers are probably in more than one learning community and that is a good idea. The last thing you need is a teacher who is not able to grow through collaboration or discussion of ideas with other teachers. I don’t believe trust is built by sharing mistakes, vulnerability and weaknesses. I think that is coming at it from a negative point of view. A professional learning community is looking at pedagogy, theory, curriculum expectations, professional standards. For me, then, this means we are looking at having a comfortable level to discuss those ideas so we strengthen ourselves , our knowledge and our experience through airing ideas and thoughts in a professional setting. The group leaders are the ones who will be alert to learning gaps and how to broaden the experience for all participants. Leadership is a skill and members of a team have to feel comfortable in a group and  be able to express their ideas and thoughts.

Dysfunction #4: Lack of Communication

True. Communication is everything. These days you can communicate in multiple modes and that is a real advantage. Getting information and ideas out is easy so there is no excuse for lack of communication. It is also important to make it clear to a group how you are communicating. Online communities are more efficient and effective at communicating and Twitter is the number one in my book. It is important to have a place for ideas and feedback and that is more easily managed online. This way a community is dynamic and connects more naturally from meeting to meeting since discussions and input are valued and can grow on.

Dysfunction #5: Lack of Essential Learning Outcomes

From Steven Weber’s article:

From my observations, developing essential learning outcomes involves trust, conflict, debate, time, and the ability to come to consensus.

It is very important to have time to look at departmental documents, examination board criteria and performance management criteria et al. If we are to truly develop as a profession we need to dedicate quality time to look at professional documents , guidelines like the TfEL and share our ideas with other professionals. Online communities can become quite international in their input and that is even better because you are not locked up in regional thought bubbles. You can look at what you do in your region and compare it with how others approach things in their region. A professional learning community will do that – focus on something and then broaden the discussion so that the classroom implications, the teacher practice expectations and the attainment possibilities are all clear to the individual teacher. It then needs to be linked to curriculum outcomes and expectations and the sorts of assignments which would fit the bill and then how you would reasonably assess those assignments.

The great Year 10 Blogging Review

thinking-please-be-patient-thecuriousbrain.com_Image: Simple Life Strategies

My last post Why blog? was written live in class with my Year 10 students. This is the last week of Term 1 and we needed to review what we have been doing. I decided we’d do it as a blogpost fest with one post about why we blog and the other post about how we’d gone in French. Each post had 6 questions and an image and they were only allowed one sentence answers. I did the first post on my interactive whiteboard at the same time with them. One question at a time. I could show them how to do bold text. I  also wanted to show them how to backlink, make sure they ticked categories, tagged the post and then could change an image size and know how to acknowledge it properly. A number of them are really good at tagging and come up with some inventive and interesting tags. They are getting really good at picking interesting images too. I was doing my answers at the same time to take the strain off those who  were still finding blogging baffling.I did not want them going on holidays with bad feelings towards blogging. It took the pain away for them and they felt comfortable. All the class responses tell me they like and value blogging and can see worthwhile learning outcomes for themselves.

These are the questions I asked about their French for the second post:

1. What have you done this term in French that you are proud of?
2. Tu aimes le français? (Do you like French?)
3. Qu’est-ce que tu as planifié pour les vacances? (What have you planned for the holidays?)
4. Why do you need to be enthusiastic about learning languages in 2015?
5. We did Bretagne, comic characters, phone conversations and houses. Which one did you like the best and why?
6. What is one thing you can do next term to improve your French?

As for the responses to Why blog?

This is from one of the girls on her blog Pic Boisé :

Questions asked by my teacher:

1) What is the best thing about blogging?

I can voice the things I want to say online in an easy way. It is easy to write information that I gather and to show people what I know and what I do.

2) Why do you think blogging is so important in 2015?

Blogging is important in 2015 to share opinions and inform people. It is important to share ones knowledge with others in one way or another. The internet is used greatly so this is one of the best ways of informing people.

3) What is the best blog post you have written this year?

My two best blog posts are Les marchés d’Adélaïde or Bretagne! Brittany! I think the les marchés d’Adélaïde is good as it shows many things the Adelaide Markets has that is French. Bretagne! Brittany! is a good blog post as it informs people how to say common words in English, French and Breton.

4) What does blogging teach you?

Blogging has taught me just how simple it is to get your information and knowledge out to the world. Many people overseas have visited my blog which I was excited about. I didn’t think that this blog would be viewed internationally!

5) Are short blog posts or long blog posts more popular on your blog?

Long blog posts are more popular I have found as they have more information. As long as the blog post doesn’t drag on and get boring then long ones are more visited. They have more information from different sites with much relevance. Most of my blog posts are rather short but the longer ones are more viewed.

6) What is one of the things you can do better on your blog?

I think that I can improve my blog by adding more information on each topic.

This is a response from one of the boys on his blog Jbelf in France:

1. What is the best thing about blogging?

Sharing interesting info to the world and hearing feedback

2. Why do you think blogging is so important in 2015?

Most things are online or electronic now so if you want to connect with other internet blogging is great

3. Whats the best blog post you’ve written this year?

Montrer ma Maison because it was most viewed and I enjoyed having a really expensive house with a pool inside and living in the snow

4. What does blogging teach you?

On a couple of my posts about France and French life there have been comments that give me feedback but also teach me new things about France that I never knew

5. Are short blog or long more popular on your blog?

I find that short posts are more popular because they display the info without being too long that people will start getting bored

6. What’s one thing you can do better on your blog?

Post more frequently instead of once or twice a week and do post about things outside of the french classroom as well

The blog review has helped them to get a perspective on what we are doing and has underlined that all the hard work, fun and , at times, frustration have led to something they can now appreciate and value . They have also discovered the world cares about what they say and do. It has opened their eyes to the fact they can connect globally.They can even see their own way clear to the next step now. Reviewing blogging helps clarify the picture. At times, when you are new to it , it can be like working in the fog. High level learning is like that. Sunshine and blue skies in the learning arena now we have done our reviews and I have some valuable feedback to build on for next term.

What will you do with Watson?

What would I do? I would put it into the hands of secondary school students. All secondary school students. Not just the anointed. I have learned over all my years in teaching that the best laid plans of mice , men and teachers can be totally thrown on their head when you get a school full of  secondary students onto a new approach, gadget or pathway. Secondary students are marvellous crap detectors. “What is the point?” “Why would you?” “But what if…”. They are also very good at interpreting things in ways you would never imagine. This can be hugely creative but it can also show up the loopholes, the weak spots and the deficits of any model or gadget you are trying to introduce to “the masses”. If Watson were to be put into the hands of a planet full of secondary students, they would soon sort it out. They would learn to work with it, undermine it, create with it, find the anomalies, ways of misusing it, ways of improving it. They would give Watson a run for its money. So why would you do that? Watson is one of the biggest programmes underpinning cognitive computing. Our secondary students are the ones who will be benefiting from it and who will add to it. They need to know how it works. They need a deep understanding of Watson and they need to be able to grow it into the next generation of cognitive computing software. If cognitive computing is about computers learning from humans and vice versa, then field work needs to be done with the young. Older people will bring their skills, expertise ,perspective and knowlege to bear to create a system which is more reliable, functional, dependable and adaptable. This really is the future and it should not be held back. Right now is a good time to genuinely collaborate on authentic learning for all. So, how would I put Watson into schools? I can’t answer that question at the moment. I am still learning about cognitive computing. They have put Watson up against humans in Jeopardy so they are still learning about it too.