Sunday, October 28, 2007

I am currently attending the Microsoft Innovative Teachers' Forum in Helsinki Finland in late October. This is an amazing city steeped in history and there is some truly amazing architecture. The weather here is not as cold as I thought it would be, around 5 degrees C.
There are over 80 educators here from all around the world and the range of projects is incredible.You can read my thoughts on the conference at the Microsoft Partners in Learning site.
Have a look at the photos below, they were all taken during the day. I only saw the sun on the final day I was in Helsinki and it was quite low in the sky even at mid-day. It was mid Autumn when I was there. To view more photos go to my Flickr page.

Monday, October 15, 2007

If, like me, you have had your doubts or disagreed with Marc Prensky's article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, you should take a look at Jamie McKenzie's latest article in which he not only disagrees with the main premises of Prensky's article but also produces research to support his opinion. Well worth a read.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

On Monday I attended a one day workshop with Sharon Friesen from the Galileo Educational Network. If you haven’t already checked out their website then I recommend you do. Sharon’s workshop focused on inquiry-based learning. Sharon talked about the key features of inquiry: Creating Knowledge, Disciplined Inquiry and Value beyond school. For a spectacular example of the authentic work being done check out the ‘Nitsitapiisinni - Stories and Spaces: Exploring Kainai Plants and Culture’ project undertaken with First Nation students in Canada.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Well I haven't blogged so much in months - lots of inspiration and the luxury of time! Went to Sharon Friesen's workshop on curriculum. It reminded me of something else our students need. We need to design work for our students that fosters an inquiring mind in our students. Considering the name of my website this was a surprising thing for me to leave out as it certainly would be close to the top of my list.

The other areas she mentioned as needing emphasis, all of which I totally agree with, are:creating knowledge, solving problems and creating products that go somewhere, do something, make a difference.

Jeremy Kedian asked a good question today - "Are we planning for teaching or planning for learning?" His questions on the nature of learning were very thought-provoking. He asked 'What is the purpose of schooling?" and Julia Atkin asked a similar question "Why school? What is your educative purpose?" We need to be asking these questions as we move into a new curriculum. Schools need to find out what their own values and beliefs about learning are before they move into the new curriculum.
More on Ulearn - Helen Baxter's keynote this morning Renaissance 2.0 - Educating the new Leonardos. You can see the mindmap of her presentation on Mindmeister. She made some interesting points about developing the 'can do' attitude'.

I get her point about students not needing to carry knowledge around in their heads as they will be able to find the info they need on their cellphones or whatever, but I do think there will still be some things we actually need to know just to be able to carry on a conversation. We can't be stopping the conversation every couple of minutes - "Hold on I just have to Google that". So students need some knowledge, understanding of concepts and the skills and strategies to find out what they don't know. They will of course also need critical and creative thinking skills and the ability to communicate, and a whole range of other things.

What we as educators need to do is have conversations about what knowledge, understanding, skills etc our students need. This will differ from school to school (and indeed from student to students) so it is great the new curriculum is giving schools explicit permission to develop their own curriculums. Of course some schools have been doing this for a while but for many this is a new concept.

I'm going to spend some time looking through Helens' Mindmeister mind map. Maybe somewhere in there I will find the answer to her question "How do we educate students for jobs we don't even know exist?" I do know however, that if we give students the things I talked about in the previous paragraphs including the 'can do attitude' and a dollop of passion, then we will have made a good start in the right direction.
I'm sitting at the Ulearn07 conference in Auckland. The conference started off with a great keynote from Ewan McIntosh. He made a great comment about not supporting the digital natives/digital immigrants concept which I definitely agree with. I certainly don't fit with Marc Prensky's idea of a digital native, not having been born in the right decade, but I have been using computers for over 20 years and I'm more at home with computers & technology than many teenagers I know.

The points that especially resonated with me were:

Thin slicing - the once-over lightly mentality.

Audience - students used to do their work for their teachers and maybe their classmates and parents, now they can have a potential audience of 1 billion people through the web.

Creativity - Ewan talked about the avenues for creativity that web 2.0 opens up. I liked the idea of the use of Flickr for story telling. Do a search for 5 frames on Flickr where people tell stories in 5 photos. This has amazing potential and I can't wait to try it with some kids.

Authentic goals - Asking the question - what is the purpose of this work? For me I think this is the first question we should be asking before we teach anything and we should be getting our students to ask the same question.

I also particularly liked the his statement "It's not about the teach, it's about the tech".

After this great start I'm looking forward to the rest of the conference.