Saturday, April 25, 2009

More on Opening up Public School Access to Web 2.0

The following SlideShare offers a constructive approach to bring Web 2.0 and Social Networking into schools.

Just think what this approach would need in terms of education for our public school leadership, government and above all the teachers.
It would not happen in Australia without strong leadership from State and Federal government and that does not seem likely as the vast majority of them do not understand how children learn and can be engaged. Even worse, few show any indications of understanding the immense learning potential of Web 2.0 and social networking technology.
The shame is that the private schools, who in many cases have more appropriate responses to child protection, will continue to innovate in the effective use of new technologies and the gap between private and public school students' achievement will continue to broaden, and at an ever increasing rate.
From a social justice position (mine) this appalling as it is denying the most socially disadvantaged the tools that could actually bridge the gap and change their lives positively and dramatically.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Learner-Centred ICTs in Schools

Arguably the very best use of ICTs in schools is where students create new content using ICTs and new media. The following article provides a compelling case study of this happening in a US school with the mentoring and guidance of their teacher.

Student film documents Holocaust memories

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Should/Will Successful Universities look like in 2020?

Image Courtesy of Flickr

Today in Australia universities are under significant pressure from a range of challenges and market raiders. For years universities have enjoyed a monopoly on certifying undergraduate and post-graduate qualifications, but that has quickly changed with significant increases in government accredited non-university providers.

Currently in Australia the non-university providers are providing learning opportunities predominantly for full fee-paying international students, but this may change in the future because of government policy. Issues like free trade agreements are likely to impact on Australian higher education providers as there has been pressure in the past for the Federal government to introduce a voucher system for Australian students that would allow them to buy education products from any accredited provider. This would allow foreign companies to operate in Australia on a level playing field with Australian universities. The US is a big player in this field.

So how could Australian universities halt the slide in international market share, mitigate the possible impact of a voucher system and infact grow market share?

This article discusses an interesting approach of one private US university that follows on from, and extends the open content approach adopted in recent years by MIT.

Image Courtesy of Flickr

What about extending this notion even further and offering concept of Personal Learning Environments where learners can interact with a range of learning materials, some offered by the university and some sourced externally through open content, in ways that allows participants to follow issues and concepts that take them where they want/need to go.

For its part the university offers expert facilitators with current professional knowledge and experience along with an assessment regime that is accredited to a level that is acceptable to industry, community and government.
While learners can follow their own interests and learning pathway, they would still need to undertake learning activities that lead to certification if that was one of their goals.
But will certification be the main game in 2020? Is it even now? Some would argue that gaining the employment you seek has more to do with what you can do, design and produce than certification. Portfolios, particularly e.portfolios are now an extremely important part of gaining paid employment and the future trend is more towards these kinds of approaches.

So, perhaps a 2020 university will be one that operates in a truly global market place; one that to works with its students to prepare significant portfolios that contain authentic real-world products. A portfolio that they can use to provide a range of purpose-built views to meet the students' employment, promotion and professional requirements.

For Australian universities this will pose some significant challenges. The institutions will need to be highly connected to industry requirements with its key academic staff actively working in and with a wide range of organisations. Academic staff would need to be highly flexible in terms of the support they provide the students and be prepared to hand them over to a colleague more knowledgeable/skilled in the area the students wish to pursue.
Access to learning materials, assessment and academic staff would need to be predominantly online with exceptions only where the online option would not work.
Students would have opportunities to work alongside university staff on industry research projects.
The physical "bricks and mortar" facilities will most likely look very different to what currently exists. Increased emphasis in dedicated research facilities, few offices, general support staff working closely with academics to ensure they have what they need when they need it. Physical learning spaces targeted specifically for learning and assessment that can't be done online effectively. Virtually no lecture theaters, or general purpose classrooms. Libraries that only contain what is not available online and staffed by a mixture of academic, library and IT staff.

Regradless of where the futurevtakes us, the outcomes will be interesting, to say the least.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Future of 21st Century learning

Watch the following YouTube video and then read the short discussion below it.

If schools as an institution are to survive, their leadership and government that develop restrictive public policy, need to pay attention to these scholars.
The model and skill sets this video suggests are required to be effective learners are hamstrung by school students' heavily restricted access to the Web, particularly in Australian public schools. Besides developing an ever increasing gulf between public and private school student learning experiences, the behaviour of Australian education departments in States and Territories is, in my view, unconscionable as we and some other developed nations fall well behind in a globalised society.
In a globalised society and economy, higher order thinking, complex problem-solving collaboration and respect for culture are key determinants for a successful career and life.

When will government and schools give up on a model that just does not work for modern learners or produce the kinds of grtaduates we need in the future?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Authentic Assessment using WIKI Technology

For some time now I've been looking at the possibility of using a public WIKI as a way of having P-12 students construct authentic content in a real-world context. My rationale is simple, students crave real-world learning tasks where what they produce is valued not just by teachers and their school, but by communities across the world.

This article from "The Education Bazaar" Blog provides an interesting analysis of how this could/does occur and what the underlying assumptions are around the use of WIKIs to meet student needs.

Using a public WIKI, like Wikipedia in schools offers a range of opportunities and challenges, but certainly meets the requirements of authentic learning and assessment which is championed by many educators as a way to engage disaffected learners and to develop higher order thinking skills.

Specifically, I'm interested in developing a WIKI section devoted to indigenous Australians; their diverse culture, history, language and their land. While there is some publicly available information in hard copy publications, it is not substantial and does not detail all of Australian indigenous nations and their people. Online the situation is much worse with very little accurate information available.
Just imagine if all of Australia's school students had an opportunity to contribute to a public WIKI with information about the indigenous people native to their geographical area. Much of Australia's indigenous history is passed down by an oral tradition of story telling. The old people, the elders and some historians have information that could be shared with all Australians and the world.
Currently, Australians know very little about indigenous culture, history, language and the land as this knowledge has not been given a significant level of respect and importance since colonisation/invasion back in the 1700s.
For some years now successive Australian governments have committed to reconciliation with Australia's indigenous people, with a view to acknowledging the wrongs of the past and working towards improving opportunities for indigenous Australians to the same level of non-indigenous people.
In my view, true reconciliation cannot occur until all Australians understand, respect and value the indigenous cultural heritage, history, language and their land. This can only occur when all schools have a curriculum with embedded indigenous perspectives and requires its students to learn and understand the culture, history, language and land of indigenous Australia.

The major challenge to the above idea is Australian education departments' implementation of what is often called "Public Policy". The idea of public schools requiring a "Walled Garden" in terms of Internet policy offers substantial challenges to transformational educational ideas such as that offered above.
In nearly all cases, the response to "Public Policy" is to block public school students from accessing collaborative publicly available Websites. Even if we could get all of Australia's state and territory governments to support a school only Web space for an indigenous WIKI, the results of the student work would still be unavailable to the outside world.
The key concern is student safety and relates predominantly to un-moderated contact with persons outside the school, as well as exposure to inappropriate Web content like pornography or racism.

Solution ?
What about having a shared Webspace available to all of Australia's schools (public and private) where schools would submit a list of eligible persons who could create content and collaborate. Additional roles/permissions for moderators who would again be nominated by the schools.
Make the WIKI in this Webspace accessible in a read only version to the general public as this will remove concerns about contact with unauthorised persons.

Clearly, this would need to be a Federal iniatitive and have the full support of state and territory education ministers.

So how about it Prime Minister Rudd and Ms Gillard? Would this not fit neatly into your "Education Revolution".

Thursday, April 09, 2009

School Smart vs Intelligence??

For many years now many educators have being talking about the narrow band of intelligence that is valued in traditional school systems across the world. Gardner suggests that there are eight specific types of intelligences and that embedding an acknowledgment and valuing of these across the curriculum benefits all learners.
The following video, from Edutopia, provides an example of just how this can occur:

Notice how the learners' MI's are made explicit to them and that this stops the learners from feeling as if they are "dumb".

Making learning strengths and preferences explicit to students can also work with their learning/cognitive styles and their personality types. For older learners,
educators will find the following validated instruments useful:

Felder's Inventory of Learning styles

Jung Typology Test

The following image is the output of the Felder instrument for a particular student.

Educators who make student preferences explicit to their learners, and value these preferences, give all students to opportunity to understand just how they learn best and to develop strong learning strategies that will assist in learning where these preferences are not so well developed. To achieve this outcome, many educators and school systems will need to make some dramatic changes to the ways in which institutional-based learning occurs. At the heart of these changes will be the recognition of a truly student-centred approach and not just tokenistic attempts that hang on to existing traditional approaches.