Sunday, November 23, 2014

On the Shoulders of Giants; 3 Ways Educators Can Achieve Greater Relevance

This post was inspired by two of my giants, Tom Whitby & Steven W. Anderson

"Relevancy includes not only skills educators need to use, but educators are also charged to teach these same skills to their students. Digital literacy is now an integral part of education for teaching and learning, going beyond the application in an education setting to that of the world of work. Strategies and methodologies used for collaborative learning in education are easily carried over to the world of work, enabling lifelong learning to become more than just words in a school's mission statement." - The Relevant Educator

What used to constitute relevancy in education was confined to the pages of a textbook, the walls of a classroom, and the words of a teacher. However, today relevancy in education is learning empowered through connectedness. Connectedness and digital literacies create limitless availability to information, diversity in perspective, and access to giants. Who are these giants? Giants are creative, collaborative, communicators of thinking, learning, school, and education. Where are these giants? They are everywhere, but they are most readily found on social media. There are several effective ways to connect and engage with giants. Here are three effective methods for educators to gain relevance by connecting and learning with giants;

Find Giants On Social Media - Many giants are active bloggers. Educators can gain relevance by searching for blog posts and curating them in social readers such as Flipboard or Zite. Educators can also increase their relevancy by sharing their learning transparently. A blog is an ideal tool for sharing reflective learning processes, as well as, sharing the digital products of their learning. Mentioned earlier, social readers intuitively locate posts that suit the learner's reading patterns and interests. As the name suggests, social readers allow educators to readily share interesting, and relevant, material through email or social media. Educators can increase efficiency by subscribing to blogs using an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) reader such as Feedly. New posts and updates are automatically catalogued for the reader, and that makes the reading and learning "on demand". Teach 100 is a good starting place when searching for bloggers with an education focus. With billions of posts to choose from, educators are sure to find something that supports their teaching and learning.

Invite Giants Into Your PLN - Who wouldn't want at least one giant on their team? A PLN, or personal learning network is a team of people that support and challenge an educator's thinking. Learning relationships are the strength of a PLN. These relationships are usually initiated and maintained through social media. Google+, Skype, and Linkedin are popular virtual meeting places for connected educators. Along with many other educators, Twitter is the foundation of my PLN. Educators can increase relevance with just several daily minutes of "following" and engaging with, their PLN giants. Twitter chats are popular, and engaging, activities for educators to increase relevance and personalize their learning. Dozens of educational Twitter chats occur daily. Educators can determine the depth and frequency of their participation. Whether it's lurking or leading, following giants and subscribing to their lists can certainly increase relevance and personal learning for educators.

Meet Giants At Conferences - Conferences and workshops take on a whole new life when learning relationships are established through social networks. With the philosophical groundwork covered, conference conversations can cut right to improving learning and education. For many educators, the informal PLN meeting spaces often provide a more enjoyable learning experience than the formal sessions, which primarily follow a "sit and get" learning model. Backchanneling is a process by which conference attendees share their learning using a hashtag (#). This sharing of key points and resources adds relevance to the presenter and the participant. Additionally, countless non-attendees can connect and share in the learning conversations about the conference sessions. Meeting your PLN giants in person is terrific, but attending virtually has value too! EdCamps and unconferences have gained tremendous popularity. With no cost, and no agenda, teachers build sessions and engage in conversations about educational practice. Relevance is achieved by attending and connecting at these exciting professional learning events.

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with change without the help of social networks. Crowdsourcing learning not only helps build relevance, but it also models learning processes that will help students become "future-ready". Establishing a PLN and fostering learning relationships are both a process and a mindset. Giants have blazed trails for others to follow. Their paths are strewn with established connections, resources, and ideas that allow educators to increase their relevance rather quickly and easily. The keys are adopting a learner's mindset, and committing to connectedness. 

  • Who are the giants helping educators achieve relevance?
  • How can giants support your teaching and learning?
  • What is the relevance of the embedded picture? Suggest a caption!

References & Related Resources

photo credit: bill barber via photopin cc

Sunday, November 16, 2014

6 Reasons for Teachers and Students to Love "Big Hero 6"

Wanting a break from last week's IETC conference in Springfield, I decided to walk across the street to the AMC-8 theater to see "Big Hero 6". I thoroughly enjoyed my second viewing of "Big Hero 6" with a big bag of popcorn and a large Coke. If you are a teacher or a student, you will love this movie, not only because it's a captivating story, but also because it features themes currently prominent in learning and education. A box-office hit, here are six themes from this movie that will have teachers and students laughing and cheering from their theater seats.

STEM EDUCATION - 14 year old robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada uses his engineering skills to inventively help his heroic friends overcome an evil adversary. Science, math, and technology are featured problem solving tools for Hiro and his robot friend, Baymax. When times get tough, Hiro encourages his friends to find solutions through creativity and innovation. Credit to Disney for truthfully showing us that "girl power" thrives in a STEM setting. In addition, the PBL (problem-based / project-based learning) examples shine nicely in this film.

MAKER SPACES - College-age brother Tadashi brings Hiro to visit the "Nerd Lab". It is in this inventor's playground that Hiro is introduced to creative possibilities that exceed his love for "bot fighting". It is also here that he meets his robot friend Baymax, Tadashi's invention. The "Nerd Lab" is a high-tech maker space for Tadashi and his friends.

GENIUS HOUR - Hiro wants to become part of the "Nerd Lab" learning environment where students are encouraged to pursue their own interests as they design and develop their inventions. Genius Hour principles including; autonomy, purpose, and mastery in learning are evident throughout this story of ingenuity and resilience. ("Drive" - Daniel Pink)

GROWTH MINDSET - Following a tragedy, Hiro's discover's Tadashi's digital portfolio containing his production notes from the Baymax project. Tadashi's resilience is evident as Baymax, a robot health-care provider, comes to life after 83 failed attempts. Hiro displays his own resilience as he overcomes early challenges to come up with his "microbot" concept for an upcoming invention fair. Tadashi tells Hiro, "When you get stuck, look at the problem from a different angle."

INFORMAL LEARNING - Technology has created greater opportunity for immediacy and relevance in learning. Students like Hiro are able to use informal educational settings, like a garage or home office, to connect with others to advance their learning. Better than 75% of our learning takes place outside of formal educational environments. Authenticity and personalization increase as the learning becomes self-directed in informal settings.

RELATIONSHIPS - Hiro's expertise with technology is evident, but he becomes truly empowered through collaborative learning relationships. Hiro and Baymax show the power of "heart and mind" as they overcome adversity with passion and ingenuity. In the end, it is collaboration and teamwork that win the day for Hiro and his friends.

Flickr CC Image - Bago Games Photos

Like "The Incredibles", "Toy Story", and "Finding Nemo", there are lessons to be learned in this latest Disney animation. "Big Hero 6" is an entertaining look at how technology, innovation, cooperation, and perseverance make for a powerful combination. Whether you're a teacher, or a student, there are things to be learned and admired from this terrifically fun, and heroic "educational" experience. 

Related Reading

Creating Maker Spaces in Schools - Edutopia, Mary Beth Hertz

Saturday, November 8, 2014

How Can Teachers Make Their Professional Learning More Visible?

No one can logically argue that current and future education won't be based largely on our ability to leverage social networks for learning. There is plenty of rhetoric describing the emergence of web 3.0, but how many educators are practicing what they readily admit is the foundation of making our students "future-ready"? 
I applaud Cale Birk for suggesting talk can be cheap, and it's time to feature action. In his post, "#EDUDO - The New Hashtag", Cale asks educators to transparently share artifacts of learning using the Twitter hashtag, #EDUDO.

Several years ago, my sons became interested in downhill skiing. It had been some time since I had been on the powdery slopes, but skiing presented an opportunity for the three of us to actively learn and grow our skill together. I wanted to be able to articulate and demonstrate safe and effective skiing to my sons. In order to do this, I did some online research, talked to experts at the pro shops, and took several lessons from a friend who happened to be a ski patrol professional. The three of us then took lessons together, and before long we were progressing from green square (beginner), to blue circle (intermediate), then to black diamond (expert) runs. Modeling the learning process and focusing on skill development has helped make skiing an enjoyable bonding experience for us.

Back in the classroom, some content-focused teachers are missing a tremendous opportunity. Instead of focusing on content knowledge, teachers should be visibly sharing how they learn. They should be modeling learning supported by social networks. Much like the skiing analogy, teachers and students can become partners engaged in learning through technology and global connections. Transparently sharing learning tends to increase accountability and motivation. Knowing this, it makes sense that all learners would have digital portfolios shining a spotlight on their learning and growth. Sharing these portfolios fits perfectly into Mr. Birk's #EDUDO initiative.

Why should educators share their professional learning transparently?

  • Transparency is good for the educator as they gain relevance by sharing with authentic audiences. He, or she, acquires skills and competencies that can be used to assist students become self-determined, socially networked learners.
  • Transparency is good for students as they see visibly how their teachers are learning and sharing.
  • Transparency is good for parents who see their child's teachers as a growing, diligent, and relevant professionals.
  • Transparency is good for colleagues who can learn from what is being shared while offering local perspective providing challenge, and contributing to further growth.
  • Transparency is good for networks of educational learners as global insights and collaborations can add to depth of knowledge and diverse perspective.
  • Transparency is good for evaluating administrators who are are looking for clear evidence of professional growth that supports student learning.

Simply stated, transparency, or making our learning more visible, contributes to the learning of others. This is why I suggest to our teachers and students, "It's not enough to be a digital citizen, nearly anyone can do that. Be a digital contributor because the benefits are reciprocal and ongoing." 

"The biggest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching, and when students become their own teachers." - John Hattie

How can teachers make their professional learning more visible?

  1. Identify relevant standards that support your professional growth. Using these standards as targets, create and share your professional goals in a public forum. A blog works nicely for this as the teacher can use posts for frequent reflections and journaling of progress, while pages can highlight projects and artifacts that reference the selected standards and goals. (My ISTE-C Professional Learning Page)
  2. Curate or create rubrics that help evaluate progress towards professional goals. The descriptors will help bring more focus and explanation to professional learning targets. Share success and failures alike as both outcomes will contribute to learning. Digital products can be easily linked or embedded into blog posts and pages.
  3. Publicly share growth and celebrate mastery so that others will identify you with a particular competency, skill, or achievement. This is not bragging, it's documenting and sharing learning. Use digital resources to create a portfolio of your professional learning. Digital badges are becoming a popular method of identifying competencies and achievements. These can be displayed as part of the professional portfolio.

Here are examples of resources that can make professional learning more visible.

Example - template for my professional goals and targeted standards (plan)

Danielson Goal
Links to Processes
Links to Products
(3d) - Engaging staff & students in the successful use of educational technology
  1. Teaching, Learning & Assessments

(4d) - Participating in a professional community
  1. Content Knowledge & Professional Growth

Example - headings for a rubric to assess teacher technology integration (targets)

Example - Slides to reference professional learning to selected standards (results)

Teachers readily acknowledge and appreciate students who are able to visibly share their learning. Teachers should apply this standard to their own professional learning. We raise our game, and we contribute to the learning of others when we share our professional growth to authentic audiences. You can help turn this post into a conversation by addressing the following prompts in the comments section.
  1. How do you learn?
  2. How do you make your learning visible to your students, and colleagues?

Related Reading

Visible Learning (John Hattie) - Victoria State Government Report