Why High Schools’ biggest problem is Lessons

A major problem in High schools is their lessons. Those short 1 hour sessions that relate to a specific subject, where in most cases, the teacher stands and delivers ‘learning’.from the front. I’ve spoken before about teacher talk, so I wont go over it again but it’s time to challenge the timetable.

Here’s a summary of how my students have voiced their concerns about the typical high school day and also what I have observed as teacher:

High School's Biggest Problem

4 Problems with lessons

  1. 6195581056_281fa13715_zLessons cancel each other out: The unmentioned part of any high school teacher’s job description is to ensure that no student in their classroom is focused on what happened in the previous lesson. Students are to forget or at least change focus entirely to what is happening in their current setting. How are any young people to take anything seriously if our timetable doesn’t? [image credit]
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  2. This clock had been circulating around our school with it's twin for almost five years now. It's twin hangs on our new administrators yard wall and this one was given to me a few months back and sat in my classroom. Each measures almost 3'X3'. They are cast iron and atomic. This one will now hang in my wall. 2010/05/28: Clocks are omnipresent in modern life. Make a photo of the clock, watch, or other device that you use most to tell time. #ds194Time to inquire: As a teacher who attempts to run student-driven classes, it is often the case that just as students really gain momentum, it is time to pack up and refocus on something completely different. Many, if not all, subjects in a high school could benefit from longer sessions to allow projects and challenges to embed and students to dig deeper. Our bell-driven factory model does not allow for this. [image credit]
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  3. 7115374283_30d07f11c3_zRelations and context: So lets look at a common high school day:
    1. Plate tectonics
    2. Picasso
    3. Newton’s Laws of motion
    4. Macbeth
    5. Football
    6. Nazi Germany
      Is it just me, or is the idea that any human would be capable of ending the school day with a full retention of these 6 unrelated hours of learning absolute madness. The sad thing about much school content is that their are so many relationships that go undiscovered. I’ve been in cross-curricular planning meetings where colleagues have discovered for the first time they both teach the same topic. The saddest part of that story is that the students hadn’t even noticed! Schools must design a day of learning to make sense and add context to what’s being learnt. The factory model makes all learning abstract and doesn’t prepare young people for real life. [image link]
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  4. 6040624392_5fe29b8dae_z (1)Allowing for Energy: Teenagers take time in the morning to wake and get going, are effected greatly by food intake and are expected to deal with hours of unrelated content all day. But despite this, most teachers behave and plan lessons as if it were the only lesson of the day. Teachers need to plan activity that allows for the time of day and how much the students have had to deal with during previous lessons. In a project or inquiry based environment, free from rapid context change, the students are free to manage their own activity type to match their energy levels at the time. [image credit]

Empowered and talented

iPads and technology in general empowers students to deal with their learning on their own terms and over their own timeframes. Young people are so much more talented than the traditional school structures assume they are. To segregate each hour’s learning from the next is possible the most damaging element of high school education.

An alternative?

Here’s a timetable from Auckland, New Zealand. You can see how 3 or 4 projects are on-going through the week but span beak and lunchtimes to allow for true progress and learning. [Image source]

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 9.41.12 am

iPadpalooza 2015 (Austin)

iPadpalooza 2015 : Unicorns, Band Karaoke, iPads and Online Choirs – not you usual Edu conference! It was weird!

IMG_6017After 2 amazing days in Austin, I fortunately, I wasn’t scheduled to do anything on the first conference day and could get used to the way this “learning event” rolled!. And wow, did it roll! As I had be flown in as a token foreign presenter, I was able to bask in the mind-blowing, influential VIP green room. The discussions I had on the first day in the green room alone made the trip instantly worth while. In Picture:  @TheTechRabbi, @felixjacomino@gcouros – Wow! What a Line up for the “Mini-Keynotes.”

New Friends

IMG_6008The event had a team scavenger hunt game, which worked well to team up people who might not know each other (I highly recommend this to other event organisers). Using Twitter, I ended up in a team of the most amazing people. We became very good friends in just the 3 days. Cathy Hunt (@art_cathyhunt) was my fellow foreign team mate and also happens to be an inspiring iPad-art PD machine! (Check out her iPad art Website – Now!) She is all about the learning, I went to 3 of her sessions over the week and every time, the attendees raved about how genuinely useful and inspiring they were. Cathy also is one of the funniest people I’ve spent time with. Chris Parker(@Kreyus) signed up for the team and fortunately just happened to be the nicest, most hospitable man in Austin. He took us on guided tours, acted as taxi every day and introduced us to the best Austin had to offer.

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Workshops & 15 minute swift talks

IMG_0985I attended many great hands-on and here’s my new friend, Cathy Hunt’s excellent and fun session on stop-frame animation. Felix Jacomino did an excellent session on the power of sharing. The discussion was excellent and he had asked several guest Edu-celebs to Facetime video recording of what where views on sharing were, which I thought was a great format to use in a presentation. My 15 swift talk on learning environments was well received and can be found at the bottom of this page.

Man of the People

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The event organiser, Carl Hooker (@MrHooker) is a people magician and has created the most relaxed, friendly and thus powerful conference (he prefers “learning event”) I have been to. Not many conference organisers open the event with a personally written and performed #EduEminemParodyRap! Carl’s genius, is building a talented team of people who respect and like him to the extent they’ll all go the extra mile to make it as amazing as it can be. It is impossible to have a negative thought about Carl, so stuff gets done and the green room was evidence of just how powerful Carl’s mojo is. Thank you Carl for bringing me to the most fun, inspiring 3 days of my professional life.

Keynotes

IMG_6006Adam Bellows (@adambellow), is one of the nicest guys you could meet. Is opening keynote involved crafted keynote slides, perfectly timed jokes and a drone flying over the audience. Need I say more? I had the privilege of chatting for some time with him back stage and it was enjoyable to see how much we had in common, including receding hairline and glasses!
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IMG_6026Full respect to Guy Kawasaki who had inspiring insights into making real change and innovation in , great slides and enough laughs to keep us entertained. Very strong messages and advice from his times working with Steve Jobs.
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IMG_6058Eric Whitacre was probably the most powerful and emotive Keynote I’ve seen. His story of following your passion and using technology to connect and launch world changing collaborative projects was inspiring and all my music teaching friends back in NZ were SO jealous! Check out his latest Youtube Choir here.

The conference had a warm, friendly and relaxed atmosphere with all keen to play and learn in excellent workshops, 15 minute swift talks and one hour take-away sessions.

Thank you

tweet InspiringThanks for all the warm feedback  from my audiences (Thanks for the tweets :-)
I was amazed at how people responded to my ideas. A huge thank you to Kayla Veatch (@miss_veatch)  for her amazing sketchnote of my “Guide to Everything” talk. I makes for a great poster on my wall!

guide to everything sketchnote

Here’s the amazing (filmed by students) highlights video of the 3 fantastic days at Westlake School, Austin.

Here are the links to my Slides:

@iPadWells Guide to EVERYTHING !

Open Minds with Blank Walls

Demonstrating leadership in the classroom

Technology and new societal hierarchies are changing the demands on teachers and thus the opportunities for and style in which teachers should demonstrate leadership. Expectations on young people have also developed as the world evolves increasingly quickly. I wonder how many CEOs are now below the age of 25? It’s now less about displaying mastery over content and skills and more about demonstrating successful leadership by nurturing a creative and challenging classroom environment.

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Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters above)
Presenter and also a father to 2 beautiful girls. Twitter :  @iPadwells

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edu-bloggers.

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I have just read an excellent article in Time magazine by Julie Lythcott-Haims, where she summarises her book about the growing dependency children have on their parents. She explains how middle-class parenting, in particular, has developed in such a way it helps foster this dependency. Julie highlights that children increasingly expect to be fully catered for in any event or situation. To quote Julie: “We have to deliberately put opportunities for independence in our kids’ way.” This problem often gets discussed at my school in regard to students’ lack of initiative in the classroom but I can’t help but argue that the traditional classroom fosters just the same level of dependency.

Demonstrating leadership whilst not fostering dependency

student teams02In a classroom where every child carries out the same task for the same outcome, the temptation is to lead by command and control. After all, everyone has to tow the same line. The underlying issue in this context is that every student is dependent on the teacher for every step of the task. “Turn to page 52,” “Answer questions 5 to 10,” “Draw a mind-map of …” In these situations, a student’s need for initiative and decision-making is limited to the tight confines of the page, question or requested specific output.

Like anything, humans learn best through experience and this includes leadership. To demonstrate the more modern requirements for transformative leadership, teachers need to show mastery for adapting, evaluating learning goals and building productive working structures. These need to be open enough to let the students take control over the environment where true experience is gained in managing time, information, decision-making and social interactions. This has had very positive outcomes in my school where it seems self-respect has developed and the extra ownership over the work improves attitude and productivity.

Design-Thinking-iPadWellsSince opening up my classroom to structures like Project-based learning or Design Thinking exercises, I have seen what student leadership looks like. When it’s normal for students to be dealing with self-expression, task management and working relationships, it will amaze teachers as to what young people are capable of. Regardless of teaching model, the basics of: set negotiated goals, offer working structures; expect collaboration and let the students drive, are much more likely to develop the leaders of tomorrow.

This is important as the problems these young people will face are likely to require a more collaborative and global style of leadership. In my classroom, the quality of output but more importantly, the level of understanding and ability to lead a scenario have never been better.

iPad students learn the most important skill

There’s something in the air and like the best of things, it’s exciting and scary at the same time. More and more articles like this one and this one and even this one proclaim the death of so many jobs over the next 20 years and magazines like this one explain why people not learning to adapt will be disastrous for everyone, especially current school kids. 

adaptability-iPadwells

The major problem for school children is that traditionally, the classroom doesn’t demand they practice adapting to a situation or problem solve open-ended enough scenarios. It’s always been mostly a matter of fitting in and following the guidelines laid out by the teacher. It’s heartening to read stories like this one that show things are changing but these examples still exist as a minority in education.

This is where I’ve witnessed the iPad itself shift the learning landscape over the 4 years I’ve been involved with it. They have helped but also demanded adaptation on multiple levels from both teacher and student. Here’s where iPads have helped in developing what might just be the key skill for 21st century existence: Adaptability.

Stage one – adapt to electronic workflow.

The multiple benefits from working electronically have encouraged both students and educators to adapt to a new set of skills and tools for sharing and collaborating. Many teachers have found this first step to be a major shift in how they prepare and manage the learning environment. Although young people surposedly have the upper hand in digital skills, they too have learnt many skills in dealing with people (their teachers) who might be less comfortable with tech.  Through suggestions and shared experience many have learnt to adapt to a new format where teacher and learners build a workflow together.

Stage two – adapt to regular updates and new possibilities

The iPad learning environment does not sit still and each week there are new posibilities. Many classrooms have students who enthuse over what the latest and best apps are and this has the tendency to constantly threaten the status quo. I welcome this threat and accept that there will often be a better way to create or connect but for some teachers this too has been a situation they have had to deal with or adapt to.  My philosophy is that if an individual believes they can present the result to me without me having to do too much, then go for it. If they fail, they’ll learn a number of lessons.

Stage three – adapt to higher demands from your teacher

student teams03After a while, in some cases two years, teachers who become more comfortable with the iPad’s capabilities and workflow can start to adapt their demands and expect more engaging, challenging and collaborative output from the class. With a more confident teacher in the room, students have to raise their game and realise that the death of one-size-fits-all education is more fun but also more demanding.

Stage four – adapt to shared cloud environment

Uploading, sharing and commenting is just they way the world works these days. Our work and home life expect it of all of us and most have adapted with relative ease. Still some teachers have kept their school workflows as they were pre-Facebook and sadly, I have found many teenagers are still in the dark when it comes to realising that the skills they demonstrate all day on social media can and are used productively at work all around the world.

Stage five – adapt to running your own learning

students2By helping me develop a new approach and new priorities in my teaching, the iPad has been a major factor in shifting the students into the driving seat of their own learning. This too is something we have all had to adapt to. I would hope that soon I will be teaching children who have had enough experience of adapting and taking charge of their own learning that I will feel confident that I have been part of genuinely preparing a generation for the very much unknown future they are leaving my classroom to tackle.

Additional thoughts

Having to adapt to a one-to-one device and mobile environment, with all its challenges is enough of a reason to make the shift, whether one feels ready or not. Unless we allow young people to experience, fail and triumph in using mobile devices for productivity and creative output, we will rob them of the key experience itself: having to adapt.

Coding on iPads – Beginner to Pro

Code and programming may not be the most important topics on the planet but it is an area of study that sufferers two major problems. one: an industry with millions of unfilled job positions and two: a world where not enough teachers feel confident to run programming projects. The iPad can offer a solution in these situations.

There’s an app for that (and a generation)

Fortunately, the world of code education is getting easier and more self-sufficient every month. When I say self-sufficient, I mean such that having an expert in the room is not longer a requirement. Thousands of children, some as young as four, are teaching themselves to program and make apps and games . They are using, apps, YouTube, gadgets, drones and robots, all available at home. This generation are also becoming experts at collaborating online.
Initially, many code teachers in the world were skeptical about whether the iPad had any role to play in code learning and thought of it as just a consumption device. That was never quite the case and now the millions of iPads held by children everyday are primed to take them on the full coding journey from beginner to pro.
Here’s a summary of some of the apps on offer and the level they cater for:
Code Beginner to Pro with iPad

Where do I start and end this journey?

Here I will attempt to summarise the various levels of learning and the apps that sit at each stage.

Stage one – Single procedure

Getting from A to B might be easy for humans but computers need commands every step of the way. There’s also a long way and short way to code anything to get from A to B and learning the shortcuts is important. These apps are great at introducing the main options when doing any type of coding. They will do the teaching and the students can get quite competitive over how far they’ve got.
code1

Stage two – multi character

All apps, websites and games always have more than one thing on the screen that has been coded to do something. Learning how components and characters can interact, pass messages and information and even borrow each other’s code is key to start the development of full products. These apps will open up more open ended options and allow and the students to get creative whilst still delivering extra lessons to spark ideas. They do all this with friendly drag and drop commands, whilst still offering the full toolkit. Pictured: Tickle; Hopscotch; Tynker.
code2

Stage three – IDEs and Text code

Before you take the final plunge into typing your own code to make products that might change the world, it’s worth being introduced to the type of application coders use, namely the integrated development Environment (IDE). These apps offer tools, buttons and shortcuts specific to a platform or language. For example, Apple’s IDE is called Xcode and has iPad specific tools and will emulate an iPad to trial your app on. It’s important to introduce to text coding so students discover how carefully you have to be with syntax. These three apps find a friendly and fun way to introduce IDEs and JavaScript and a real text language. Pictured: GamePress; Hakitzu; Codecadmy.
code3

Stage four – time to go pro!

IMG_0688There are a number of app developers creating apps that allow you to type, compile and test real code in nearly every language. They can cost a dollar or two but come with keyboards specific to providing shortcuts to allow you to type and organise the code quickly. This will allow students with iPads to make a serious start on their coding career. Pictured: Python 3 (but they all look similar)

Journey as a team

This whole process from beginner to pro can be done without the need for an expert. More teachers need to feel confident that they can introduce coding at almost any age, get the students onto the apps and then step out of the way. I find teams of 4 work well to build coding knowledge collaboratively and helping each other through the various challenges.

Jobs for the boys and the girls

Find your local jobs website and do the >$100 job search. In nearly all cases, IT will be the industry with the biggest need and in many cases it will be double the 2nd place industry for job availability. There’s a global discussion about success rates with boys and coding often interests boys who struggle elsewhere. It can also act a a gateway to covering much math. Girls are also being encouraged into the industry with extra incentives and programmes such as GirlsWhoCode.com. Google also run special initiatives just for women.
Kids – start coding! 
Teachers – let them show you what they can create!

Are your kids always staring at screens?

IMG_0651I’m a father of two girls (7 & 10)  and like many fathers in developed world in 2015, school holiday time has become “constant screen time” for my kids. Unless I painstakingly structure every minute of their day, given the choice, they pick screen time before considering other activities. They are kids after all and it may have been 1987 and it may have been an Atari ST, but I was just the same.

The 70s gave us screen time, the 80s brought it home, the 90s expanded the choice and the 21st century has now given many young people the power to download further screen time options when they feel like it.

What’s good for kids?

If most parents are allowing it, is it ok to deny your own kids (as a parent or teacher) the access other’s enjoy? What long-term effects will show themselves in 20 years? Will they be positive or negative? You can find news stories and studies to prove any case you’d like to.

So, what do we parents and teachers do with a generation who have increasingly higher expectations for how much screen time is considered normal? I have written before on categorising screen time to give more value to creative pursuits and this has helped family time in my house considerably. But here’s other ideas I’ve had that help in this increasingly challenging debate about what is good or not good for children.

Children generally think of the games first but are also naturally curious and creative and often just need reminders of the more productive activities available. Here are some ideas for how to structure these reminders.

Idea 1: Make rules & reasons clear

Folders screentimeRealistically, most families I know would allow a couple of hours in any day for iPadding. Organise apps into folders based on family rules about screen time. As examples: 20 minutes playing games; 40 minutes playing ‘thinking’ games; 1 hour of these creative apps. Using the Control Centre (swipe up from bottom of screen) you can quickly access the timer to ensure the kids get an alarm to say ‘time’s-up’. I also use Emoji characters to help the kids remember why they’re categorised (see pic). It seems sometimes that screen time becomes the issue more than worrying about exactly what’s on the screen. and my kids will move onto more productive activities, if it means more screen time. (Sad, I know)

Idea 2: Make them earn this precious resource

Yes, they will do almost anything for screen time and so use this to your advantage and make them earn it. The parenting advice on this also changes week to week, depending on which book, expert or website you follow but generally, publishing a list of ‘good citizen’ tasks that all earn screen time works well. It puts the onus on the child to carry out good deeds before the earn device time. My daughters have very tidy bedrooms, we have an automatic filling dishwasher and the fire wood was transferred to it’s winter location all because of the desire for the screen. I’ve had no arguments about work around the house if it’s weighed up against iPad time.

Idea 3: Become master of the games you want your kids playing

Here are some games I’ve recently become very good at, so as to spark discussion and competition within the family.

land of vennMath: The Land of Venn – Geometric Defense This is a great game where young kids learn and draw geometric shapes as weapons against monsters. It quickly had my 7-year-old daughter using math vocabulary she might never have used at home. Lots of extras to win and spells to purchase with your winnings. Cleverly designed to award more power to the more complicated shapes. Great fun and sparks good conversation.

 

English : Sentopiary

sentopiaryThis was a great distraction that both my daughters enjoyed as it reinforced things they’d studied at school and was interactive enough that even I learnt a few things regarding grammar. As the app states: “Guided by Common Core standards, it is intended to be used both at home and in classrooms and works well in environments where iPads are shared.” This is true as it also sparks conversation between 2 people looking at it.

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Languages: Duo Lingo

duo lingoWe’ve made it a family challenge to learn Spanish using this app. My elder daughter has now decided that after Spanish, she’s ‘gonna learn Russian’ :-). Make it a weekly challenge to work through a particular number of lessons. The app is very carefully crafted to make sure you build your knowledge and skills in successfully in written, reading and spoken forms. There is discussion about the teaching of languages dying out in schools but this app and gasified online system could be the saviour for language learning.

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Art: Sketchbook Express

Sketchbook ExpressThis free app gives you advanced tools presented in a straight-forward fashion. Even I could reignite my liking for art with some nice first steps tracing a photo using the layers available (see pic). This immediacy and extra safety (kids don’t like to mess up their pictures) of this layering made it an instant hit with my 10-year-old daughter.

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Movie making: iMovie

iMovieUsing siblings, pets or classmates to put together a story introduction using iMovie’s Trailer option is a popular activity that I find with some theme prompting from me always gets my kids outside and ‘acting’. The other day, all I had to say was “what about using our chickens for a trailer?” and they were off!

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Logic & Coding: Kodable & Thinkrolls 2

IMG_0642Both these apps challenge the brain for logical thinking. They present themselves as games but in such a way that the kids have to pause and think rather than just react on instinct like typical gaming.

Kodable is a great introduction into coding that both my daughters will play for the full 30 minutes overtime they’re reminded of its existence.

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screen322x572Thinkrolls 2 looks easy to start with but quickly gets very challenging and is cleverly designed to deliver challenges in quick succession that my kids will choose to play this without reminding.

This means WAR!

Yes, as a parent or teacher you might feel you are in a constant fight and you may win some and loose some battles but if we are careful, I believe we will win the war. With some thought and a positively mindset, this screen time might create a generation of thinking, creative and collaborative people. By setting up structures to help the children self-manage their screen time, I am hoping that I can already see the benefits of what these apps have to offer transferred to ‘real-life’ with two girls who are happy to help, keen to solve problems and create projects of their own design. Make sure you make some time to showcase the results of their more productive device use and it will encourage more.

Good luck everyone !!!

Mistakes when integrating Technology into classrooms

Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters above)
Presenter and also a father to 2 beautiful girls. Twitter :  @iPadwells

What’s the biggest mistake teachers make when integrating technology into the classroom?

During a recent conversation I had regarding a new tech tool, a colleague told me, “it would probably go wrong and mess his lesson up.” The root of much fear around integrating technology derives from teachers wondering, “what do I do if it goes wrong?” In working with teachers in multiple schools, I have found this is due to a traditional mindset that the teacher must be the master of content and activity in the room. Fear of losing that control and sense of respectability is what still leads many teachers to avoid introducing technology and limiting the scope of what might be achieved with it.

Classroom Design Thinking

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edubloggers.

Teachers often prescribe which apps, websites and gadgets are allowed in “their classroom” to ensure nothing goes wrong. Notice here that the priority is on teacher comfort over that of the students. This can lead to learner frustration, scope limitations and restrictions to creativity and many learners not realizing their potential. Creating an environment like this, can foster disconnect between teacher and learner, and for me is the most common mistake I come across when working with schools introducing technologies. Young people live in a world where technology offers them much personal control over when, where, and, how they do things. If school does not reflect this world, it will seem to become ever more irrelevant.

In all my teaching, writing, research and presenting, the central theme in education at the moment is the empowerment of students over their own learning. As this becomes more understood by teachers, it redefines the classroom as a space of shared ownership, relaxing the need for absolute control and freeing them up to work with the students, whilst learning alongside them. Most technology these days has to be designed to be user friendly or it doesn’t survive in the marketplace and young people have become accustomed to quickly mastering gadgets, apps and other technologies. If the classroom is a flexible and collaborative space, my students help each other apply their own choice of technology to the task at hand. The focus is on the learning goals and/or problems, not the technology itself.

Operating a more democratic classroom environment has led to my own use of technology being enhanced by student suggestion. The Iinternet has increased the speed at which young people discover new tools and examples of them being used. Allowing them to experiment with their new discoveries gives them ownership over how they learn and in my experience and observations of others, it increases engagement in the tasks and content in nearly all casesclassroom.

The issue is not about faith in technology but more faith in the students to showcase their own mastery and adoption of a rapidly advancing world. The trick is to harness this potential and use the keenness shown by young people to enrich the learning experience for themselves the students.

Read the other excellent posts here: Top 12 Bloggers

Can iPads help achieve a state of Flow?

Lev VygotskyI’ve just had the pleasure of being inspired by Keryn Davis at Core Education, New Zealand. Keryn was speaking to a selected group of talented NZ teachers and the not quiet as talented me, who are all carrying out research projects on teaching and learning in 2015. Keryn spoke to us about the power of play in schools and used research and her own data to convince all of us that this was a significant issue for educators to explore.

Starting with the work of Lev Vygotsky, Keryn highlighted that people naturally stretch themselves during play. Vygotsky said: “In play, a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behaviour; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself.” This idea struck me as quite profound and had me hooked the rest of the way.

Next we were taken through some inspiring examples from her own research where play had been first introduced as a special hour at the beginning of the day, for “proper” school to commence afterwards. She explained how the positive results from this specially timetabled hour of play had led the schools to extend it and use elements of play throughout the day, making the most of opportunities that arose. Learners naturally started to organise, lead others and collaborate. I highly recommend you read more about her work here.

Play, Involvement & experiencing Flow

What I liked most was how she linked play to considering the level of true involvement a child displays in any school activity and finally onto the idea of flow, being a state of intense concentration on the present moment. As a tool for measuring activity and flow, we were introduced to the Leuven Scale for Involvement. Originally designed by Ferre Laevers.  This is used by elementary school educators to grade students during observations regarding how involved they are in various activities during the school day. Normally data is gathered by recording the observed involvement in activities of one child at a time as they carry out the different types of tasks in one day. I can’t see why these wouldn’t apply in principal to a learner of any age.

Here’s my infographic version:

The Leuven Scale for Involvement-@iPadWells

 

We were looking at her data that recorded both involvement and well-being at 5 minute intervals for a child during a school day. We started discussing the idea of flow as being the state that people attain when these 2 measures are at their peak. Karyn had actually discovered that flow was achieved when involvement was “Extremely High” but Well-being only had to be “Moderate.”

Here’s the Leuven scale for Well-being:

The Leuven Scale for Well-being-@iPadWells

Flow

Nakamura and Csikszentmihályi identify the following six factors as encompassing the experience of flow.

  1. Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
  2. marking action and awareness
  3. A loss of reflective self-consciousness
  4. A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
  5. A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subject’s experience of time is altered
  6. Experience of the activity is intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience

Reference: Nakamura, J.; Csikszentmihalyi, M. (20 December 2001). “Flow Theory and Research”. In C. R. Snyder Erik Wright, and Shane J. Lopez. Handbook of Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press. pp. 195–206. ISBN 978-0-19-803094-2

All teachers have the opportunity to design school structures and activities with an aim that children will experience states of flow during their day. These two scales are also useful for a teacher to use in judging their own activity design and classroom structures.

What does this mean for iPads?

i4S - APPSMASHING.001Combining the ideas behind play, involvement and flow, I believe teachers need to be open-minded when deciding how and/or when iPads will be used by learners. Allow learners to play and express themselves. Let them build their own learning experience and in doing so become more focused and absorbed in the moment.

App Smashing is a great example of this, as long as it’s not the teacher prescribing the exact apps to be smashed. Learners should develop their own workflows and styles of output. Having to conform to any generic structure for learning is always going to lessen the chance that moments of true flow might develop.

The flexibility and massive possibilities for expressing, creating and publishing from iPads means they can enable a learning environment that caters for every individual. Personal agency can lower self-consciousness and this might in-turn lead to deeper learning and students lost in moments of their own creation.

 

What will be the most significant classroom innovation in the next 10 years?

The devaluing of content demands innovation

In my recent work, both in the classroom and in research, the most common recurring question is “what should we be teaching?” This question is valid in a world of Google, Wikipedia and instant access to information from the device in your pocket. This educational challenge is also expanded by the thousands of young people already pushing beyond the conventional system due to success in personally instigated start-ups and projects they have organised themselves. The personal empowerment and opportunities that the internet and technology offer will challenge nearly every aspect of traditional education.

robots

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edubloggers.

The most significant innovation in the classroom during the next 10 years will not be some magical technology or even students staying at home. It will be a shift towards student-led education, which focuses on the development of key competencies for success in this century.    Photo credit

I’m lucky. I live in New Zealand where we have a future-focused assessment system that allows teachers to develop a relevant educational system for the 21st century. To give you an indication as to how different it is, the national curriculum has less than one page dedicated to Math! Our focus is on five key competencies:

  • Thinking;
  • Using language, symbols, and texts
  • Managing self
  • Relating to others
  • Participating and contributing

This means teachers are free and trusted to tailor their classroom activities to suit the exact children in the room and also allow them to inquire into content of their own choosing. That said, the change to this less structured approach has been a challenge for many long-standing educators and only in its eighth year is it starting to bear real fruit.

The need for this pedagogical innovation in teaching philosophy involves technology but is also, in part, driven by technological advancement. The speed at which technology is altering the opportunities within the job market is increasing each year. Recent studies indicate that large percentages of jobs will disappear altogether. This increasingly flexible world requires flexible but also collaborative learning environments. Students are being encouraged to create their future career rather than find one.

My conversations with educators around the world indicates that we are seeing a worldwide shift towards student-driven learning, where the content studied, and challenged, is also selected by the learners. Teachers will learn to stand back and be amazed at what students are capable of when given this freedom.

The innovation will come from the dismantling of traditional classroom hierarchies and the empowerment of young people to use any technology and skills, which they can more successfully develop in a learning environment that they control.

A Teacher’s Target

I had a fantastic brainstorm meeting with an extremely talented educator and colleague Maya Foster (@MayaFoster4) where we decided to summarise our vision for a teacher’s daily priorities, the order they should be placed into and how we could get teachers to reflect on their own practice in regard to them.

We developed an idea that Maya had sketched out on paper which placed the student at the heart of successful teaching and highlighted assessment as the last thing an effective teacher should be considering. We both agreed that many teachers start with the assessment and work backwards towards considering the students as individuals. This leads to very uninspiring and often un-motivating classrooms. I’ll break our discussion into its four components but here’s the graphic:

2015 WLS & FTR TEACHING

 PDF version here

Priority One: KNOW YOUR STUDENTS

students targetSpending time to build a strong understanding of exactly who each student is can save time in the long run. Students who feel genuinely appreciated will perform better throughout the school year and just knowing their name isn’t enough. The more you can connect with a student around a personal interest, the more a student will work with you and respect your ideas. This will make everything else much easier. Using the school’s data to find out which areas or school they are strong in can also help build a more useful understanding of how to design activities for the class.

Priority Two: PEDAGOGY AND ACTIVE LEARNING

ped targetYou might know your students but you won’t get every student to engage with your content unless you have a variety of sound pedagogy at your disposal. Successful pedagogy leads to student engagement in the content without constant teacher oversight. The careful design of activities and tasks tailored for the specific students in the room can reduce the energy required by the teacher in the classroom. I have covered in previous posts my belief and findings that any lecturing does not attain the the assumed outcome of all students engaging in or listening to the content. Make sure your students are active and working together to challenge the content with deeper thinking.

Priority Three: KNOW YOUR CONTENT

content targetSuccessful teachers bring any content to life. This is done by knowing the students, using appropriate pedagogy and the linking the content to current affairs, the students’ culture, other subjects being studied or its relevance to the future. All topics can be made relevant. Throughout history, humans have showed a wonderful talent for sticking to about 5 core themes, such as, greed, love, war, innovation and charity. If your subject is not directly linked to modern developments like the sciences might be, then it will always parallel something going on in the students’ lives or the world at large. Make sure you are reading-up on the developments and stories relevant to your subjects. Make connections and place the content in some kind of real context. Disconnected content leads to disconnected students.

Priority Fore: Know your assessment.

assess targetYes, the assessment should be the last consideration, but sadly is often a teacher’s first. Worrying about tests and marking guides can suck the joy from both teaching and learning. That said, it should not be completely ignored either. Make sure the requirements of the assessment are known early in the course and ensure the classroom activity allows the students to explore and challenge the content whilst being able to relate it to the demands of any future assessment. One trick is to use Flipped Teaching to relieve the pressure from worrying about whether you’ve mentioned every detail. The students can then access that detail in their own time.

Priorities for success

Too many teachers worry about assessment and grades and in doing so actually do damage to the success of many students. Many, if not most high school teachers are still subject first, teacher second. This devotion to content can lead to a devaluing of pedagogical ideas and a reduction in genuine engagement from all the children. I say genuine because ‘good’ kids will always play the game but if you get your teaching priorities straight, more students will love learning.