Monday, July 18, 2016

EdchatNZ MOOC Portfolio


I have to admit that I began this course with blue sky thinking that plunged into a dark discontentment as the content opened my eyes to a bleak and complex future. I become dark and cynical and then I got scared. The future and talking about the future is rather scary. But to talk about the future we must turn to the past...


My assumptions were that everybody understood the purpose of school. That even I understood the purpose of school. I also assumed that change was manageable and could happen in my lifetime. This bubble was quickly popped as I realised that society’s view about the purpose of school was not ready to change with as much vigor/passion as I was (am?) willing to give it. There is still so much out of my control. People are the sum of their experiences and everybody has experienced being in school. There is all drag and no lift when people discuss school. Most interestingly, those who I tried to engage in the discussion were apprehensive about giving the “right” answer, like they weren’t qualified to have opinion on the subject. Not what I expected! Maybe I assumed too much community voice and perhaps there is not enough. The ladder of inference has everyone (including teachers) stuck in a loop of past experiences. To move forward we need to examine our values closely.

The future
I took a break from facebook for a whole day recently. It took sheer willpower to disconnect for the day. I missed 2 birthday notifications and it took me a good hour to catch up on what happened that day. But what an awesome day I had. I got sh!t done!
The unplug from the system task made me realise how much we rely on automaton. Everything we do is connected to technology. When the media says “robots will take over our jobs” they ain't kidding! We strive for efficiency and speed yet the contradiction is that we are so tied to the system that we are missing out. I don’t think teachers will be put out of a job though. This article and quote resounded with me:
The new rule is that if you are a participant, you are, by default, a moderator, a curator and an editor for others. (Kilpi, 2016)
I like to think of teacher’s fitting this role no matter what the context or content, no matter what “school” ends up being. Not everything needs to be automated. Humans are still important.
“Love. That was what she had that IT did not have.”
-Madeline L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

Science Fiction/Speculative writing has made predictions that are scarily true. I am still in awe with this particular quote as this book was written in 1973 right before personal computers came into our lives. L’Engle recognised that technology could never take the role of a human. That to be human is the ability to reason and empathise.
There is purpose within school to help our students survive in an uncertain and contradictory world. We need to them to be able to connect and disconnect, make and consume, work and play. But most importantly I believe we need to humanise them. They need to be social, to use language and symbols, and keep using their incredibly complex brains. On a more philosophical level this includes building relationships, problem-solving, increasing reliance, being resourceful and expressing themselves creatively. This is one aspect that has not changed for me during the course. I felt strongly about this before and perhaps even more strongly now because I have engaged with bigger ideas about the future, about education and about being a human. Humans, not technology, have the ability to shape the future.

Knowledge is a hard concept to pinpoint and I think that is because it is contextual. I also think that our view of what constitutes knowledge has changed. David Weinberger pointed out that we have so much access now to information via the internet and we now have to shape and filter that knowledge and apply thinking to it. Our students need to learn how to do this and find information that is valuable and credible. This increase in content is also rather exciting. We can dip into new knowledge and we can dip out. To paraphrase Weinberger in his EdchatNZ webinar “this better to have MOOC’d a bit than not have MOOC’d at all”. We can also get overloaded with knowledge. How do we determine what is important? Again this comes back to the curation of knowledge. That we can curate knowledge for our students and co-create it with them too. So then the argument becomes “Who decides what knowledge is important for school?” This I feel comes back to what we value in society and in our communities.One person/government cannot decide this and this will look different in different communities. Literacy and numeracy - yes, we’ve already decided that these are important but what it is to be literate and numerate should be discussed and debated frequently within our own schools and clusters.

Futures thinking
To quote myself:
Bad decision making from current political leaders and so called experts leads to disarray and chaos. From the ashes rises a new group of changemakers ready to take on these problems and shift the focus to future-ready solutions. It's the hacker culture, its people being resourceful and showing resilience. Power to the people! - MOOC entry Week 7

There is hope! There is a horizon! Futures thinking allowed me to see that the most important future is the one I can shape, the one I can reach out and touch right now. I don’t have a crystal ball but I do have the ability to make immediate changes that will have an impact tomorrow. Again, empathy is at the heart. I can determine the future based on the actions I make today for my students (Keri Facer).


Where to now?

There is huge potential in the role of tools like design thinking, spirals of inquiry and fail-safe experiments to make small yet important changes to that way that I teach. All of these are processes, not outcomes and because the world is changing we need to be adapting as we go not finding permanent solutions. I will use these tools to help me make future-focused changes that are within my reach. I would really like to engage in more discussion with a wider group of people about the themes of future education. It is scary to think that decisions are being made in schools all over New Zealand that are not being informed by current thinking and discourse. I wish to be the knowledge curator, to get other people thinking and to make these ideas and resources accessible to them. I need to keep asking the questions, laying the wero for others to join me.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Diving into the pond

This blog post is cross-posted on WellyEd.

Sometimes you have to be the first to dive in. In a small pond you won't find much and your ripple maybe me more of a splash or you may only just wet your toes. That is what it was like to be a Pioneer Educator in the Network for Learning (N4L) Pond. It was a completely new space to collaborate in and the temperature hadn't quite reached bath tub for me.

Fast forward two years and that Pond is a bit bigger, a lot warmer and full of things to discover. I have rediscovered the Pond and I'm swimming around hoping others will join me.

So what is the Pond. The Pond is a professional space to share resources, lesson plans and ideas around teaching. The Pond is not Facebook, or Twitter, or like any other social media which I'm pleased about. It is also only for New Zealand educators. The Pond is there to use as you choose so I am going to outline how I use it:

1) I have added the chrome extension for Pond onto my browser so whenever there is a news article or webpage that I think "aha! that would be good for <insert learning objective here>" I add it to the Pond and to one of my buckets.

2) I have set up some buckets within the Pond to collate resources in so I can find them easily myself and direct my colleagues to them too.

3) Users outside the Pond can use the Pond still as a search engine. I use a special hashtag on my buckets that I want my students to be able to find. They simply put in our class hashtag and the buckets pop up.

4) I search within the Pond and find stuff to add to my buckets.

I really like it because it makes my searching and collating purposeful. I can easily find things I've saved and alert others to it. My wish however would be for more educators to contribute to it. Why should we hold on to our precious lesson plans, web links and resources? To build a Community of Practice we must be willing to share.

So my challenge for you this week is to take a risk, dive in, the water's good!