What is the place of Papert’s “microworld” of Logo in this era of programming, coding and making?

mindstorms bookOk, let’s spare the suspense here. Yes, I think Logo has a place as a valuable programming language with primary and even intermediate learners today. Papert’s Mindstorms book has had a tremendous influence on my thinking and I must admit to being profoundly impressed since it was written and researched in 1980(!) In this book, Papert explores the potential of “world building” through a computer language that he and his team created called Logo aimed at “world-builders” AKA all learners and explorers.  The digital turtle serves as a learning tool manipulated and programmed by students using specific rules in the Logo environment. As learners manipulate the turtle in creative ways, they are in the act of constructing a world of their own. As a Computer Science teacher in 2015, I wonder what is the place of Logo on teaching and learning in this era of creating, coding, making and of course programming?

In specific, I have been revisiting Papert and his team’s “microworld” of Logo with primary learners using Microworlds Junior. I must admit that the majority of my attention and Computer Science lessons with primary and junior students have been focused on Scratch and Blockly through the code.org site. However, Microworlds Junior especially has been an excellent gateway tool for programming, drawing and digital tinkering for learners in Grade One to Three. When evaluating their projects, I asked our creator to consider the perspective someone “playing” their file using three questions. Is it clear what to do? Is it fun? Can I replay? These questions provided tools for self and peer evaluation and potential next steps although they are certainly not the only criteria for success. In below pictures and videos, students had the choice to create an animation, story or game on a topic of their choice.

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More sample videos using the new Microsoft Sway software.  https://sway.com/s/BGlbiBqM0x8cASfZ/embed 

Here are a few strategies that I hope are inspired by Papert’s research and demonstrate good pedagogy for encouraging creativity, design thinking and help prepare primary learners for more advanced programming skills.

1. Demonstrations are very powerful: Get the turtle moving (forward 10+repeat) on screen and ask simply what should the turtle do next, what would happen if two turtles collided? Answers from students included “turn, dance, turn into a ballerina, explode(!), says “I’m cool” etc.) I found it fascinating to try help make their ideas, no, matter how crazy, work. Finding a way to incorporate their creative ideas using the rules of the MicroWorlds Jr. (pendown, multple pages, if then commands etc.) become an amazing challenge for them (and me as an instructor!)

My hope is that this model of experimentation which encourage learners in our class to adopt a similar approach…

2. Avoid teaching a recipe. “Now we going to get the turtle to draw a square” Instead of show them turtle art websites designed by others and ask them which one they like best (or invite them to re-mix the the program or others or create their own design)

3. Celebrate their achievements: I use my SMARTboard to showcase their progress, constantly video recorded their programs using a camera, iPad, Surface and smartphone (I kept running out of space quicker than I could say “upload to GDrive, Dropbox, OneDrive etc.”)   OR create sites like this one Turtle Art site.

4. Encourage failure as an opportunity – F.A.I.L. is simply the First Attempt In Learning or put another way “We are only working with current best idea.” which I attribute to Heidi Siwak from the #bit14 conference last year.

5. Allow collaboration. I let them help and teach each other so the class is a busy and active one.

What cannot happen is that Logo (or other programming tools) should be used to explore traditional teacher-led pedagogy. If Logo is taught as “content” then I think is loses it potential as an amazing “playground” or “sandbox” for digital play, program creation and innovation.


For further reading on the ideas of Seymour Papert, Logo and Programming…

Check out Jim Cash’s excellent post (backed up by much academic research too!) critically examining the work of Papert in the context of the recent increased interest in the coding and making movement.

and the work of Peter Skillen as a fun and experienced advocate of Logo and the work of Papert.


Here are a few sample teaching slides I assembled for classes.

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Here is the link to MicroWorlds Junior site.

Finally let’s end with…

Gary Stager’s excellent TED Talk on Seymour Papert” Inventor of Everything!

Using Digital Portfolios To Aid Learning And Showcase Curricular Goals


dp sampleShowcasing the progress of a learner over a specific time is probably a teacher’s greatest joy. (Ok, let’s not forget parents or even accompaniment providers.!). As children grow up, those around them see this growth and speculate over the circumstances that brought it about. “These circumstances” might be defined as curriculum and if the experience for children and older learners is designed with purpose, can impact a learner’s journey in powerful ways. Now imagine you can have a record of this progress. The promise of today’s technology is that we can now design a portfolio of individual learning (in multiple mediums and media) over a short, long, wide, or narrow timeframes among many other permutations. This individualized “container” can serve as an incrementally authentic document that demonstrates curricular expectations with more depth and understanding of learning than our current modes (i.e. report cards, teacher-parents interview etc.) Individually, fragments of learning have always been available for review but portfolios allow designers to curate a collection of learning perhaps by theme, subject, age etc. Designers should probably be the learners themselves but educators and curriculum developers could purposely collect on a learner’s behalf. This post will analysis the potential of digital portfolios to showcase a learner’s progress following a specific curriculum through the lens of change theory, curriculum theory, and other learning theories. The focus will primarily be on the impact upon the student-teacher relationship but when appropriate analysis could be extended to a learner-accompaniment provider scenario.

What is a digital portfolio?

A digital portfolio is a container of documents, files, pictures, media, conversations that record a learner’s progress against a specific curriculum or express an individual’s life-long journey. Curriculum designers and educators have a unique opportunity today to set up structures for learners in their care to collect and create a digital record of their progress in a specific curriculum with the potential and likely longer “shelf life” than a physical portfolio.

Why digital portfolios?

BVG Workflow sample 2014“It is imperative (today) students be able to curate, archive and expand on the work they are producing in class. As an added bonus, student digital portfolios help students authentically learn important digital citizenship lessons. Portfolios also allow students to internalize vital digital literacy skills such as creating their own digital web presence and learning to effectively and purposefully share their learning with the world.” (Clark, 2014) Curriculum developer can leverage this opportunity to encourage dialogue, reflection and a potentially wider audience to showcase learner beyond the traditional student to teacher sharing.

What different types of digital portfolios are available?

Clark divides portfolios into three types: process where learners are asked to create a product and use the document to reflect, showcase, which highlights a learner’s best work and a hybrid model which presents both the showcase pieces and steps made to get to the final product. The emphasis on reflection in both the process and hybrid model are critical as learners can be encouraged to take a reflective stance as Lafortune suggests and educators have more insight in a learner’s Zone of Proximal Development by Vygotsky. Choices for a container will have an impact on the nature of a portfolio but they are a few characteristics that are vital. A portfolio should include versatility, compatible with multiple media especially images, videos and sounds recordings and finally, easily sharable with others. Best practice would also include the option to have different degrees of sharing (i.e. with one individual, within a learning community, public etc.) and to toggle sharing on and off when work. Google Sites and Voice Thread  and other web based tools offer these options to collect, share and comment upon in manner that support dialogical learning encouraged in the works of Freire and Lafortune.

“Portfolios give students a chance to develop metacognition, set goals and internalize what “good work” looks like. Blogs offer a platform for creativity, communication, connection and the practice of digital citizenship. “Blog-folios” are the best of both worlds- using a blogging platform to develop writing skills, provide opportunities to connect with an authentic audience and increase reflective practices.” (Hernandez, blog) This last model is focused on a reflective stance and students can use their blog to celebrate their achievements and most importantly, their change of thinking as a result of a specific curriculum.

Who should collect and curate the digital portfolio?
To keep a portfolio as authentic as possible, it should be curated by the learner themselves engaged in a particular curriculum. This document can reflect how a learner’s “concept of the self” (Lafortune, p.62) as that changes throughout the course of study. This will encourage dialogue between the educator and learner to aid the next steps for learners in their ZPD and also allows educators to adapt to a learner’s emotional state and their affective domain. Students in the action of creating their portfolio must shift from a passive state to an active one as they are creating his or her understanding of the new material. In doing, change is encouraged. The act of collecting a portfolio demonstrates a shift from a theory in use to a theory in action as Fullan outlines in his change theory. Furthermore, the opportunity for follow up through dialogue and commenting in portfolios spurs change and development of new ideas and synthesis.
When implementing digital portfolios, prominence must given to a student’s unique and authentic voice that reflects their multicultural background, gender perspective, social class among many other unique factors. In other words, digital portfolios if supported by the educator or accompaniment provider, could allow for a greater expression of a learner’s cultural background and result in higher esteem and as Sleeter suggests “be fair and broad enough to actually capture what children know and can do.” (Sleeter, p. 125) Also if curriculum designers allow learners to express their perspective, then their journey to self-actualization as Maslow suggests is encouraged. In fact, accompaniment providers and educators have a unique opportunity to capture learners in the act of “peak experiences” in learning. If and when, these peak experiences occur, they might also be added to a portfolio as a record of a learner experiencing change and hopefully much success too! Most important is the idea that a class set of digital portfolios should never be the same, like recipes for example. but instead reflect the uniqueness of the individual and if possible, be an expression of self-actualization and, fingers crossed, the internal curriculum not accessible without it. From a curriculum designer’s perspective, referencing both a curriculum map and the most recent student-created portfolios would be informative for future planning and course delivery.

Theoretical support for portfolio to record and encourage change
Portfolios potentially reflect a learner’s perception of the curriculum. This access to the internal curriculum of the student could be very useful for educators and curriculum designers reflecting upon their pedagogical choices and use as feedback for future students. Educators can also use this document to initiate dialogue on a learner’s conception of the curriculum and if necessary, address misconceptions of the curriculum. Acting in a socio-constructivist manner, the educator or accompaniment provider can help learners apply ideas from a curriculum working beyond and through conflict to demonstrate change. This change can be recorded in a variety of formats using portfolios. Whether one uses a “before’ and “after” format (perhaps as graphics or screenshots) or records change in more of a gradual (perhaps blogging or narrative) manner, portfolios offer a unique opportunity to record a snapshot of change occurring. Fuller’s Concerns Based Adoption Model with three stages of concern could provide an excellent format for a blog or portfolio. Rarely, are students given the choice in curriculum and so this opportunity to voice their likes and dislikes (traditionally afforded to teacher) may not be appropriate to students. However, some degree of student choice and an emphasis on how new ways of thinking and knowledge impact a student’s view of the world is definitely worthy of representation in a blog or portfolio.

Sharing digital portfolios

A web-based format for sharing digital portfolios has many benefits. As prior mentioned, options to toggle the degree of sharing a learner’s progress outwards from the individual to a trusted individual, internally to completely public is an excellent opportunity. Digital Badging complements portfolios as another tools to aid curricular goals and encourage students to record their progress completing tasks for a specific curriculum or towards an individualized curriculum. The web-based nature of digital portfolios also allows learners the opportunity to showcase skills and projects created outside the classroom and specific tasks (The concomitant curriculum). Finally, portfolios are perfect for student led conference and could be done F2F or virtual. Speaking personally, I find that being asked to share my learning in presentation format or sharing with others forces me to engage and explore my learning in greater depth. In fact, curriculum designers and educators might showcase their ability to lead their students through a specific curriculum in their own teaching digital portfolio.

Conclusions
Digital portfolios can be an excellent expression of sound pedagogy and demonstrate a reconceptualized curriculum ignored in traditional curriculum based on products only. Learner must adopt a reflective stance especially when asked to blog or share a progression of learning (assessment AS learning) through a variety of mediums. They can be a powerful expression of an individual’s creativity, background, culture, heritage, perspective and most importantly provide a glimpse of learner’s internal curriculum and unique voice. More specifically, this intentional act of phenomenology by learners is applied directly to the curriculum as an expression of them undergoing changes. Educators and accompaniment providers have a unique opportunity to celebrate this individuality, and in terms of curriculum goals, identify misconceptions, engage in productive dialogue and suggest next steps in a learner’s Zone of Proximal Development. At its highest level, digital portfolios could be an expression of an individual in the act of “peak experience” as triggered by specific curriculum. For curriculum designers, accompaniment providers and educators, authentic portfolios provide insight into the individual who just “finished” the curriculum but also to the individual just “starting” the unit of study. What a powerful tool for change agents.

Sources:
Clark, H. (2014) The Beginner’s Guide to Creating Digital Portfolios Edudemic, webpage link
Chuter, A. (2015) Digital Badging a valuable addition to assessment practice unpublished (blog) website link
Chuter A. (2015 How might Digital Badging impact the future of learning and assessment, unpublished (blog) website link
Fullan, M. (2006, November). Change Theory: A force for school improvement. Centre for strategic education, 157.
Fuller, F. F. (1969). Concerns of teachers: a developmental conceptualization. American Educational Research Journal, 6(2), pp. 207-226 D.C.), 85, 226-232. Retrieved May 25, 2015, website link
Hernandez (2011) Blog-folios unpublished (blog) website link
Lafortune, L. (2009). Professional competencies for accompanying change: A frame of reference. Quebec, Canada: Presses de l’Universite du Quebec.
McCulloch, C, (2010) Powerful portfolio practices (Slideshare link)
Pinar, W. F. (1999). The Reconceptualization of Curriculum Studies. Counterpoints, 70, 483-497
Sleeter, C. (2004). Critical multicultural curriculum and the standards movement. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 3 (2), 122-138,
Wilson, L. O. (1990, 2004, 2006) Curriculum course packets ED 721 & 726, unpublished. webpage link

Putting Students First: Using Learning Theories to update Projects and Spaces

build own countryCollaboration is often cited as a key 21st century skill yet students rarely get a opportunity to observe educators in the act of working together. In my role as a technology integration specialist, I consistently collaborate with other teachers, openly when possible, so students can observe and model. The creation of clear, transparent and shared projects between educators aids learning goals and student success. Add in access to creative, technological tools and students have powerful ingredients for learning. Shared objectives not only reinforce the work of a classroom teacher but also validate the learning from the student’s perspective. They might say “this is important as we are exploring it in two different subjects, Information Technology and Social Studies (perhaps more!)” This cross-curricular and integrated approach has been a fundamental aspect of learning and progress in my classes, in computer labs or increasingly anywhere tablets (and wifi) take us. However, my recent thinking, research and discussions on learning theories have led me to acknowledge that much more is needed to put the learner first. How much can I “learn, unlearn and relearn” my approach? (Toffler 1970) More specific connections with learning theories and leveraging vital collaboration with the collective intelligence of peers and colleagues in my current course of study, would improve learning and teaching in my learning environment. This “levelling up” approach has been applied directly to my current and future curriculum and project planning with students. “Upgrading content requires deliberate provocation…what content should be kept,…cut,…created.” (Jacobs 2010) Using experiences with Grade Five students, I will explore benefits of current approaches and leverage established and evolving learning theories, specifically humanism, cognitivism, behaviorism and constructivism in order to upgrade the learning environment for my students.

In the third term of Grade Five, students are often expected to more formally present a researched topic in Social Studies. Taking the pre-2013 revision of the Ontario Social Studies curriculum as a guide, Ancient China was the topic and students were assigned to research martial arts, food, clothing etc. Students were then asked to present their discoveries. When critically examining this project from a humanist lens, it is clear the students might have to “manufacture” their connections to topic, especially when they are assigned by the teacher. Yet connection with the material was a vital assessed element as manifested through enthusiasm, performance and creativity. In fact, much effort was made for teachers to find the right topic to fit specific students with understandably mixed results. These are clear signs that although assigned presentations were appropriate for meeting curricular goals, some tweaking and updating would be necessary to engage students from a humanist perspective. In fairness, our curricular documentation has reflected this change in the 2013 revision with an emphasis on an inquiry-based learning model where students are encouraged to ask questions and research using a variety of sources (primary, secondary etc.) and assumingly leverage new web-based search tools when appropriate.

From a behaviourist perspective, students were encouraged by a secure environment and often felt safe and supported by a variety of educators, peers and parents. Not surprisingly, students loved showing martial arts movies, dressing in beautiful silk and eating Chinese delicacies too. At times, students would use handouts with crosswords, games, stories  and other techniques. We often used presentation tools on the computer (i.e. Power Point, Voice Thread etc.) for engagement and interactive purposes (i.e. Jeopardy, online commenting) These last two strategies were often a great help when exploring more facts-based material (Emperors, Religion etc.) From this analysis, I would argue that students were aided by behaviorist perspective with praise, support and even scaffolding when appropriate. Students were encouraged by the teacher to demonstrate their observational learning skills by leading the class through materials in a teacher-like manner. (By Grade Five, they have much experience observing many teachers in action to use as a guide.)

From a cognitivist perspective, this project has challenges as students are assessed on their performance of their research rather than emphasizing a more gradual accumulation of knowledge, thinking skills, organization, project management or even collaboration. They could also be much more potential for input upon the accumulated scholarship or collective intelligence on a particular topic. In addition, this accumulation only built upon prior research skills (in Grade Four) and towards skill development for future research (Grade Six). In practice, projects were often discarded at the end of the year with little option for retrieval beyond an occasional video recording. Perhaps its place in a portfolio, (digital I would suggest) would add retrieval options, give more clues to thinking processes, knowledge acquisition, accumulation and assimilation. Assessment based on the performance/product alone would give educators less data than a performance combined with analysis of the process through documents like a portfolio most importantly accompanied by comments on the materials. Idealy, this might provide clues to a student’s metacognition and perspective. In fact, Piaget might see this project as more about accepting the research of others rather than “…creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify.” (Piaget, 1952)

From a constructivist approach, our presenter’s performance and ability to engage the students would be based in their “radical constructivism” as suggested by Glaserfeld. In other words, students would be more interested when they can construct meaning to the material with their own inquires. Their ability to accommodate and accumulate puts much pressure on the student to construct and present the materials in an appealing, thought provoking and simulating manner. In fairness, much scaffolding, support and guidance for this was provided by a variety of educators. In fact, students were encouraged to be creative could build or construct their presentation in any manner (i.e. story, drama, multimedia presentation, game, demonstration, samples etc.) However, perhaps a more inquiry-based model is more student centered and would be better supported by constructivist theory.

Our latest project with Grade Five students is less performance based and provide a more opportunities supported by a variety of learning theories and approaches. This “levelling up” or upgrade to the curriculum allows  students more choice (Humanist), while maintaining a consistent level of encouragement through a supportive environment (Behaviorist), provides an emphasis on the analysis of thinking skills in both the process and product (cognitivist) and finally, allows students to create and construct their own meaning and learning (constructivist). Finally, this new approach has the potential to tap into the collective intelligence of our class of digital experts, online sources and eventually when comfortable connect (connectivism) with others.

In specific, students were asked to create their own country after learning and profiling elements of the Canadian Federal government as an observable example. The key components were a “thought book(sample) and a website creation tool (Google Sites). Unlike the prior individual project, students worked in pairs to create their My Country web pages as emphasis on social learning would also benefit students as they can help and aid each other when needed. “Hence, the principle and method of ICT integration in education is as follows: ICT is a means to organize paired interactions in the problem solving process as well as a means of cooperative educational activities in the classroom (teacher – student – group of students).” (Kalas 2010)

Each team was asked to profile their own country based on the criteria from their research and their own creativity and imagination. Scaffolding on using the technology to create pages  was provided by videos (YouTube playlist), links, resources and students were encouraged to work collaboratively. Time was spent encouraging and modelling good collaboration as mentioned above and has foundation in Bandura’s social learning theory. Creating a the videos worked well as an opportunity for students to work within their zone of proximal development (ZPD) as students could watch, pause, rewind and play steps to complete their objective like changing the theme or adding images and links. In addition, teacher-led mini lessons or collaborations with supportive peers aided students to progress in their ZPD. The assessment process was changed from an emphasis on a final performance/presentation towards a gradual process enhanced by technology options like “revision history” and practices like “check in’s” to monitor students progress.

In addition, students were awarded badges (my list) rather than marks based on their creations and these badges were awarded throughout the process than at the end (perhaps too late!) Probably the most exciting element was the opportunity for the students to inspired (and potentially create) badges of their very own based in their interest, achievements and ideas. This appeals from both a behaviorist (“I’ll have that badge I created please”) and humanist perspective (I have designed success myself through the creation of my own badge. Here is my conversation with a student (video only viewable by FDJ) on this and my screencast in student-inspired badges. Based on this conversation and  observation of him leads me to believe that he and his partner is demonstrating Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” when working on this project. Finally, The “final” product being web-based is easily archived, shared and retrieved as both an exemplary for next year’s students and as part of a digital portfolio for the student.

Overall, a reimagining of all our projects and activities through the lens of all learning theories suggested that the learner is at the center rather than the curriculum content. The learner is supported by collaboration from a number of sources including a dedicated partner, educators in a variety of disciplines, other supportive peers, links to learning materials online and specific step-by-step screencasting videos for modelling. In addition, the opportunity in this example project encourages students to be creative on their web design while demonstrating necessary social studies learning goals. Accessing this project online through access to a lab, tablets in the classroom and even at home provides opportunity for anytime tinkering, iterating and creating. However, applying this example further and situated in learning space dedicated to building and construction could be even more powerful for learners. Being surrounded by the “buzz” of creative individuals in the act “flow” no doubt helps too. In fact, here are no limit to the possibilities for this project to include a variety of mediums including digital (paint and sketching (i.e. Flags), audio recordings (national anthem), animations (promoting the country, video, incorporation of web gadgets (a calendar of holidays), even programming through applications like Scratch (a web based games about the country) to Papert’s programmable drawing in Logo. Also physical creative mediums like painting, building with wood, plastics should not be ignored as they can be easily added to the web space through embedded video or photo. Finally, digital to physical mediums like 3-D printers or performing robots provide a new medium for learning. In short, our learning theories tell us that creative learner-centric activities in well designed spaces like makerspaces provide students with the opportunity to self-actualize.

Mini Maker Space 1
Sources

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:. TED talk. (Feb. 2014.) “Flow, the Secret to Happiness.” http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow

Glasersfeld, E. von, (2001) The radical constructivist view of science. In: A. Riegler (Ed.),Foundations of Science, special issue on “The Impact of Radical Constructivism on Science”, vol.6, no. 1–3: 31–43.

Jacobs, Heidi Hayes. (2010) Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development,  Print.

Kalas, I. (2010) Recognizing the potential of ICT in early childhood education © UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education, http://iite.unesco.org/pics/publications/en/files/3214673.pdf

Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas, New York, Basic Books

Piaget, Jean. (1952) The origins of intelligence in children. International Universities Press

Pink, Daniel H. (2009) Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. New York, NY: Riverhead,  Print.

The Ontario curriculum – Social Studies Grade 1 to 6 (2013 revised) http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/sshg18curr2013.pdf

Toffler, Alvin. (1970) Future Shock. New York: Random House,  Web.

Tsu-Raun, Christian (Jan. 2014) Creating a Mini Maker Space 

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wyatt, Valerie (2009) How to Build Your Own Country © Citizen Kid, Kids Can Press http://www.scholastic.ca/clubs/images/activities/HowToBuildYourOwnCountry_2029_teaching.pdf 

How might Digital Badging impact the future of learning and assessment

There is no question that marks or grades remain a constant in education in both the lives of students, teachers, administrators, parents and politicians in 2015. Yet today, we have many tools to document, assess student learning and achievements with a remarkable level of specificity beyond a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA). Futurist Turri, believes that “the grade point average (GPA) will no longer be the primary instrument to validate academic achievement.” (Turri, Disappearing Future 2. Educational Processes) How would such a transition from a marks-based to a standards-based approach in education impact assessment processes? How can we leverage sound pedagogy, learning theories and technological tools to aid students to achieve and learn with rigor yet allow them individual expression and reflection? Could instructors and institutions use strategies such as badging or digital portfolios to measure student progress for future learning opportunities and even offer them as admission standards for future learning or employment? Would a standards-based approach aid graduates given how critical self-directed and lifelong learning will be in our increasingly complex times.

Digital badging is one new practice worth examining for its potential benefits for teaching, learning assessment practices in both formal and informal learning settings. “Digital badges are an assessment and credentialing mechanism that is housed and managed online. “ 1 (http://www.macfound.org/programs/digital-badges/ )

This YouTube video from Mozilla explores the reasoning, practices and potential methodology behind digital badges.

This diagram I designed showcases the Badges Ecosystem as described by the Mozilla Open Badges video above and John Foster’s article. This diagram has the learner in the middle, who is awarded a badge from an issuer (a respected authority figure on a topic or subject) which is stored and displayed as part of a collection and ideally as part of digital portfolio. The critical step of this ecosystem must be the potential link between the badge and specific evidence of the individual’s results and achievements. Jackie Gerstein states this in her blog post “I Don’t Get Digital Badges!” (ed. note – I believe she actually likes them, but offers a fair and critical review of badging as an indicator of student progress and achievement not a replacement.) Finally, badges are stored in a public place like a digital portfolio, blog or websites for interested parties (i.e. admission officers, potential employers etc.)  to access and review.

Some of the benefits of digital badges are: they provide a method to showcase the skills of learners beyond traditional structures like academic transcript marks and degrees. As we live in increasingly technical and complex times, surrounded by evolving technology, organizations and knowledge, lifelong learning becomes an essential ingredient of success and productive citizens. Badges are one strategy to measure and recognize new learning in a transparent manner. When badges are linked directly to evidence on eportfolios or websites (i.e. video, photos, documents, testimonials etc.) etc. potential employees, partners, administrators and evaluators will have a better insight into a individual’s abilities beyond marks, transcripts or perhaps even a short interview. For educators, eportfolios and badges can aid the assessment process by providing a more complete pictures of a learner’s progress. A digital portfolio (i.e.blog, wiki, site etc.) can also provide a rich platform for dialogue and asynchronous communication between educators and learners through comments and messaging. As learning becomes increasingly specialized, badging offers a new and potentially unique pathway of learning for each student. In other words, an educational system based on badges in a higher institution might allow students to register for specific courses only previously available to a specific degree. Alex Halavais, a college professor uses badges instead of a traditional grading system in his university course on communications. “It’s an index of your learning biography,” he says. “It allows you to stitch together your [educational career] in interesting ways.” (Ash , Colleges Use ‘Digital Badges to replace Traditional Grading.”

A good critical analysis demands that we address some of the challenges with badging. In specific, some might say that students escape rigor through a “easy pathway” of courses in higher institutions. (i.e. B.Sc. students could avoid the dreaded “Bio-Chemistry” course, Social Science students avoid Math heavy statistics course or Arts students avoid learning a second language as prerequisites for graduation.) Critics might say such gaps could undermine the reputation of the institution by potential employers who expect employees from a particular course to have a specific set of skills. However, such a pathway would be a learner’s choice and employee with access to badge information could examine a canditate skills in more rather than less detail. Finally a student in Halavais course from above wonders “whether the system would be too unstructured for a less motivated younger student. ” (Ash, 2012) In response to that criticism, I would suggest that good curriculum design and lesson planning could allow K-12 students, who I would argue love choices, to experience an equally rigorous pathway.

Badging has the potential to increase motivation in students. Badging is definitely a form of operant conditioning, which educators can use positive reinforcement of awarding badges to encourage students to learn and excel. Instructors can utilize badges as positive reinforcement for learning and success. However, as students get older this form of positive reinforcement may lose its impact especially if not accompanied by increase credibility for badges from outside sources (i.e. potential employers or admissions officers.)

Examining badging through the lens of a humanist learning theory, reveals that badges could provide a authentic record of learner’s pathway of  exploration, understanding and interactions with others. Badges would be an excellent method to map out and articulate Malcolm Knowles’ ideas on self-directed learning. This pathway of learning could also include a wide range of interactions and connections that demonstrate curiosity and the active journey to change society as Freire suggests. Perhaps through reflection and detail provided in a digital portfolios, full of badges, visitors might even be able to see evidence of the journey towards self-actualization at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In short, the opportunity to have a clear record of specific learnings beyond traditional methods like degrees and marks helps individuals present a more accurate expression of themselves, perhaps even approaching the ideal self.

From cognitivist and constructivist perspectives, a collection of badges might provide a map of the “black box” of a learner’s brain. In addition, badges when accompanied by a collection of writing, thoughts and reflections perhaps in digital portfolio format could provide a road map of a learner’s journey through Piaget’s stages of development. Such a format is an excellent artifact for examining a learning’s thinking as they assimilate and accommodate new learning. Learners, dependent on age and stage, can also be aware of their Zone of Proximal Development through examining and planning their learning pathways and through collaboration between teacher and learner on a portfolio. Learners should definitely be able to view, question and explore the criteria for earning specific badge in order to consider next steps. Finally, the link between play, gaming and learning is reinforced as badging is often a huge element in recording a gamer progress in the completion of the game. Critical to this connection between gaming and badging is providing a non-linear structure for learning where learners can “unlock” badges and a variety of learning pathways that appeal to them.

Badging has much potential to aid teachers and students if grounded in good pedagogy, fully supported by parties internal and external to organization, as a reward for rigour, student success and achievement. Such student progress MUST be accompanied by specific evidence, perhaps a embedded in a portfolio or badge itself or as a open link. Considering learner motivation towards is challenging because “(I)t is beyond argument that we cannot crack open a learner’s head, insert a magnifying glass, and make direct, error-free observations of what the learner “knows.” (Wiley, 2012) My experience with badging seems to indicate that this strategy of portfolios and badges will motivate most but not all. However, in the differentiated classroom, educators must leverage a variety of tools to appeal and in some cases motivate all the individual learners in their class. Through the lens of learning theories, I would argue that badging and digital portfolios need to be continually examined critically but at this time have potential for a positive impact on learning. Experiences with badging in three environments, junior students in Grade 4, senior students in Grade 11 and 12 and finally educators seem indicate that badges and digital portfolios provide an asset for both educators and learners in the assessment process.

“Advocates of this vision for K-12 contend that such badges could help bridge educational experiences that happen in and out of school, as well as provide a way to recognize “soft skills” such as leadership and collaboration. Badges could paint a more granular and meaningful picture of what a student actually knows than a standardized-test score or a letter grade. ” (Ash, 2012)

Sources:

Ash, K. (2012, June 13). Colleges Use ‘Digital Badges’ to Replace Traditional Grading. Digital Directions, 05(03), 26. Retrieved HERE

Chuter, A. (2015, February 6th) Digital Badging: a valuable addition to aid assessment practices. http://ict4kids.ca/2015/02/06/digital-badging-a-valuable-addition-to-assessment-practice/

Digital Badges (2015) http://www.macfound.org/programs/digital-badges/

Siko et al. (2013) Disappearing Future 2. Educational Processes http://www.wfs.org/futurist/2013-issues-futurist/september-october-2013-vol-47-no-5/top-10-disappearing-futures/disap-0 

Foster, J. C. (2013). The promise of digital badges. Techniques, 88(8), 30+. Retrieved here

Gerstein, Jackie, (2013, March 16th) –https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/i-dont-get-digital-badges/

Turri, Dan et al. (September-October-2013 Vol.47-No.5) Disappearing Future 2. Educational Processes)

Wiley, David (2012, June 12th) Iterating towards Openness http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/2397

Tools for Issuers of Badging 
Credly.com

Classbadges.com

Mozilla Open Badges

Digital Badging: a valuable addition to assessment practice

Badging sample
Why Badges?

There is no question that kids (and adults) love shiny new toys and for educators, digital badging is trending as a practice to aid motivation, learning and student achievement. Anyone familiar with boys or girls scouts (my son is a cub!) know that badging is not really new and like the military serves as a critical element in their programme. Badging is used as motivation for encouraging their members to learn, achieve and is proudly displayed on sashes and uniforms during ceremonies or special occasions.

Today in education, students today of all ages can have access to a (free!) digital space (call it digital portfolios, blogs, websites or even cloud storage) where earned badges and achievements now have a place to be displayed to a potentially global audience. Dependent on the age of the student, their digital space can be teacher or student-curated. The opportunity to modify the degree of sharing from private or public and access to specific groups like parents or experts in between. However, I cannot help but ask whether digital badges aids motivation to learn or even diminishes it? I was inspired to this critical analysis from my own experiences, discussions in a class on Behaviorism and Jackie Gerstein’s well articulated blog post called “Why I hate digital badges.” (Spoiler alert: She doesn’t but is rightfully critical and cautious that badging should not replace evidence of learning among other ideas.)

However, I find that badges can aid the assessment process when used to celebrate, recognize and motivate student achievement and learning. Offering badges can offer students choice to earn, achieve and learn but should be not linear in their application (i.e. one badge at a time.) This experience will be familiar to those students who commonly unlock achievements in video games. (And I have a sneaking suspicion we all know might know a few student gamers in our classes:) Allowing students the option to complete tasks and curate projects in any order I believe replicates a differentiated instruction strategy of choice boards and would be appealing for students. And like games, some badges would be easy to earn than other more complex requirements.

I also like how badges can be a tangible reward that might be placed on blog, wiki or social media site. And after reading Jackie Gerstein’s article, I agree that the matching of badges with a digital portfolios or web spaces is essential so that interested parties can “click through” hyperlinks to examine related photos, videos, files and creative work for specific evidence of learning at a level of detail dependent on the observer. However, I am admittedly reluctant of the place of badges when transferred from one class to another. In other words, even the most well designed and transparent badging system is best used over the course of one school year with one teacher. Although Mozilla hope to apply standards to badging through their open source Open Badges initiative. (So watch this space!) Even higher educational institutions are getting in on the badging act.

Badges allow students to be rewarded for selected and specific achievements within a unit or course of study. In a mark-based system of assessment with rubrics, students may be reluctant to work towards something that is not marked. No question and full disclosure here, some students do struggle with the idea of shifting from a mark-based model to a standards-based one. Badging can help with the assessment process as students are able to be recognized personally for their achievements when achieving a badge by the instructor and can be key collaborators for peers interested in earning a particular badge. On that last point, badging is also a differentiation tool as like all initiatives Roger’s bell curve applies. Having badging will motivate some students (and I would argue a large majority) but may not be for all and I think that is ok. An educator might have to use different strategies to motivate, inspire, support and teach. (Yes, badging is certainly “no magic bullet” but can an evolving practice that I argue offers benefits to all involved in the learning process.)

I have been experimenting with badges in both Primary, Junior and Senior environments and find them a useful to aid the assessment process.

Below is a diagram of workflow in my classes and badging would enter in between Stage 5 and 6 of the process where projects are commented on, assessed and returned. As for platforms, I have been using KidBlog (sample) with primary students and Google Sites with both junior (sample) and senior (sample) students. Although, next steps with Grade 12 students would be to use services like Squarespace and the Adobe Creative Cloud as requested (Their requests and they are right…)
BVG Workflow sample 2014

How to create badges

Creating using Power Point

Creating using Credly.com

Also classbadges.com is an excellent resource for creating badges and even collecting embeddable options. For me, I have a folder that I use with all my badges in it (HERE) and create and collaborative with colleagues on Google documents with the requirements for each badges.

Further discussion on badging

I look forward to sharing my continuing practice with badging and eportfolios but remember that as assessment change, adapt and evolve (hopefully for the better) celebrating and encouraging student achievement is fundamental.

Here are a small sample of sites on badging. I look forward to further discussions and chats on Twitter and specifically at #badgechatk12.

Using badging with K-12 – http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/using-badges-classroom-motivate-learning/

Higher Education example – Masters in Education through Badging – http://etale.org/main/2014/09/07/you-can-now-earn-a-masters-degree-in-edtech-through-competency-based-digital-badges/

Shelly Terrell’s slidedeck on adapting assessment to be missions – http://www.slideshare.net/ShellTerrell/meaningful-elearning-with-digital-badges-missions

Jackie Gerstein’s blog post with a critical examination of digital badging – https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/i-dont-get-digital-badges/

Kate Ash’s features of digital badging – http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2012/06/13/03badges.h05.html?

Nellie Deutsch’s post on badges as virtual rewards – http://www.emergingedtech.com/2013/06/the-evolving-use-of-badges-in-education/

Our Hour of Code ’14 and Computer Science Week

The Hour of Code is a great way to encourage computational thinking and Computer Science for learners of all ages. This year’s Hour of Code was only possible thanks to a great team of colleagues and students who made it so much fun (and busy!) On the week of December 8th to the 12th, we implemented a school-wide initiative with students participating from three divisions K-5, Grade 6-8 along with our Grade 9-12 programmers taking the lead. Our goals were to encourage students to use computer technology as a creative programmable tool and prepare them for the programmable times that we live in today and tomorrow. (I like this Wired article by: Bill Wasik!) Needless to say, this was a popular event as almost all primary and junior students, when given encouragement and support, love using technology and for some this opened up new possibilities of learning, expression, creativity and sharing on devices familiar to them.

Some of our events and highlights included:

1. Our Hour of Code led by our Grade 11 and 12 programming students who partnered with our Grade 3 coders to explore apps such as Scratch, Lightbot and the code.org tutorials. Having Scratch 1.4 as a backup proved invaluable when connectivity was slow or unavailable to the code.org site. (This happened as our Hour was the first Monday of Comp. Sci. week at 9:00am!)

2. All our K- 8 students completed their Hour of Code on a variety of programming and coding applications during ICT classes. Students from SK and up explored Lightbot, Scratch (Why write a holiday card when you can create a holiday code?), and the multitude of programming activities at code.org. Outside of classes, students were lined up the door to get a seat at our lab computers to complete our coding activities. (Enough to bring a tear to this Computer teacher’s eye…although no time for that, too busy helping and encouraging ;)

2. Competition  – After much discussion prompted by exploring the videos on the need for Computer Science in the K-12 curriculum, students were encouraged to create a program using Scratch. Some excellent ideas…Link
scratc2

3. We met and partnered with a local Computer Scientist, entrepreneur and CEO who supported our efforts and told us the journey of her career in Computer Science and some of her successes, challenges and adaptations to the always changing (and always exciting) field.

4. We also presented at Assembly including the famous Loop Dance and a popular visit from Sphero (so much buzz, I think I might have sold a few and or had the Sphero added to student’s lists for Santa…:)
loop1

5. Most importantly, our programmers from Grade 3 and up went beyond One Hour of Code and were keen to continue their programming journey through the code.org site especially when they could login and save their progress using their school Google accounts.

By my very, very rough estimate, I would say approximately over 10,000 lines of code were written over the week. Here is a link to my simple Scratch program and presentation at assembly!
scratch1

Probably, my favourite takeaway from this event was that we encouraged all, including our teachers that students can create and curate computer programs (like visual-based code like Scratch or text-based code) to demonstrate their learning and understanding in any topic. Learn to program or program to learns(?)…how about both!

Technology’s Promise: How can we leverage technology to aid learning in the 2014 and beyond? EDUC 5101 Synthesis

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There is no question that learning in the internet age is completely different from any time in history. Traditional structures, routines and institutionalized practices in education (like all other industries in 2014) are being categorically replaced by the promise of technology for a more open (and seemingly endless) access to resources, expertise, information (in varying degrees of relevance and accuracy) Most importantly, technology’s potential to connect individuals, experts and learners from across the globe in real time is quite profound. In the last decade in particular, the classroom with its familiar set up of desks, chairs and chalkboard can potentially be replaced as a monopolizing hub for learning as we can learn anywhere, collaborate locally and globally and frequently do using technology The potential for redefining learning tasks and the struggle to survive and hopefully thrive in this new learning environment, has been experienced by all stakeholders in education including the learner at the center, parents, teachers, administrators and politicians. This post will explore four topics of areas of discussion: curriculum relevance, the role of standardized testing, socio-economic disparities and finally the resistance to change traditionally characteristic of our educational settings. The problem based learning model and approach by Dr. Desjardins is vital to our analysis as we take on the roles of the stakeholders and attempt to identify the problem, current situation, desired situation, obstacles, knowledge and resources towards approaching a solution from one perspective and then from another perspective and so on.

pbl3
“To begin with, the concept “problem” (P) can be described as being equivalent to the difference between a current situation (Sc) and a desired situation (Sd) or goal, and this difference becomes a difficulty as it is multiplied by the number and size of the obstacles (O) that stand between these.” (Desjardins, 2011 – Source)  

No question that our curriculum has to evolve to make the needs of students today (at least?!) and tomorrow (ideally).  A significant majority of students feel disenfranchised in schools. (Ito et al., 2013) They seem disinterested in both the content and pedagogies that characterize traditional approaches to learning in K-12 environments. (Ito et al., 2013) We, as educators, have to be committed to change, upgrade and re-define tasks if we are to attempt to prepare students for an uncertain future with important life and learning skills. As always, the focus must be on creating an enhanced and connected learning environment rather than teaching technology in isolation. According to Heidi Hayes Jacobs, educators should be upgrading and updating tasks constantly to help prepare students for tomorrow rather than learn the skills of yesterday. She suggests a number of updates to consider: content and assessment (what to keep, cut, create and add to a portfolio?), program structures (by grade, use of time, space), use of technology, media literacy, globalization, sustainability and habits of mind (thinking habits to all succeed in life). A mention of Dr. Punterdura’s SAMR model is also a relevant and important lens to critically and honestly examine all learning with technology. When integrating technology into instruction and learning, perhaps our goal for updating is to move an increasing amount of tasks to the re-definition level. From a curriculum leader or administrator’s perspective, providing opportunities for staff to become connected through school collaboration embedded into their weekly schedule would also aid teachers to plan rich learning experiences (more re-definition tasks) for students. Another invaluable solutions is encouraged our teachers to become connected educators who use external collaborations, social media like Twitter, webinars as well as action research and conferences to aid their students and learning community. The accessibility to leading educators, researchers, academic and pedagogical leaders as well as experts on any topic through digital means (i.e. Skype, email, IM etc.) is too rich a resource for educators and administrators to pass up. In short, creating connected educators with vibrant Personal Learning Networks (PLN) is going to be a more powerful way to upgrade curriculum and learning for students than traditional top-down staff meetings or even one-off conferences.

From the student and parent perspective, each of these stakeholders is keen to experience activities that showcases a student’s strengths and prepares them for future success. Engagement then becomes key and seeking connected learning experiences is one strategy where the learner can participate, learn by doing, face constant challenge and be able to explore the interconnectedness of learning not only to prepare them for the outside world but as an active participant immediately. An example of this is found on the Scratch 2.0 website where enthusiasts of coding and programming from all walks of life are able to share, remix and build programs by topic, function or theme. From collections of projects by topic, subject even principles like loops provide a venue for showcasing and learning skills in a public setting purposefully. Sites like Scratch, Google Apps, Prezi or Voice Thread (link to more by parts of the SAMR model)  where creativity is encouraged and designers have the option to share work to a limited or specific and when appropriate a wider audience will not only motivate and engage but also allow students to become digital leaders with a positive digital footprints upon graduation.

Politicians on the topic of curriculum relevance have to listen to their educational advisors and economic leaders and support initiatives that will allow for graduates to find economic independence and be happy as measured on the Happiness index. As educators in 2014, I think we have the opportunity to leverage a variety of assessment tools including diagnostic to plot a learner’s position on continuum of learning. I find in my practice that some traditional questions (especially when using a combination of open and closed questions) are helpful for a quick check for learning and feedback and this aids both learners and educators. However, at the end of a unit or period of time, when student needs to demonstrate a fuller spectrum of their learning, a digital portfolio of student work, artifacts and achievements is definitely a better gauge of their progress. In 2014, the ability to take pictures, videos and links to digital content (always protecting student’s personal data and likeness) could allow “testing” to reflect a learner’s true perspective especially if curated by them dependent on age. Politicians aided by academics and administrators could then examine student’s created artifacts for specific criteria and benchmarks. This is no doubt a longer process of assessment, especially for those keen on clean and simple numerical data. However, in 2014 I would argue that no one can have their learning boiled down to a grade level or number!  This document shared by a colleague demonstrates the student’s perspective and input on the potential and exciting future possible for students. (source)
student's imagine future of education

Funding and support for open source and publicly funded learning initiatives can certainly aid the digital divide that is taking place in Ontario and to an even greater extent internationally. (Chen et al. 2014) As most initiatives and educational technology move to a cloud based model, access to a web enabled device unlocks a wealth of rich learning opportunities for students. Luckily, the price of one device is becoming increasingly affordable to point of complete market penetration. Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) initiatives in schools can increase the integration of technology in class as along as students who arrive to school without, are provided with a device without stigma or a vast gap in access to tools accessible to others. (i.e. If classes are using tablets, students should not using computers and vice versa.) As educational technology becomes increasingly entrenched in schools, parents with limited purchasing power are going put tremendous pressure on schools to provide devices to maintain equity. Partnerships between companies and schools in need can also be encouraged by politicians and administrators to provide devices in a mutually beneficial exchange of student use for ethical and discrete data collection and research. BYOD can help but can also reinforce inequity and therefore a 1:1 environment with all teachers and students sharing a similar device is more ideal.

Governments also have a role to place in providing funding for technology hardware and seemingly free educational materials (software, digital textbooks,  web based etc.) accessible by all students in a learning community or province. The example of Bitstrips for Schools is one web tool where a powerful and creative online tool is freely available to Ontario students. Administrators and school leaders have an important role in advocating the needs of the students and considering the resources, tools and especially technology to meet the needs of their students.

Educational institutions have traditionally been skeptical to changes and adopting new technologies and learning practices in the classroom is wholly dependent on the teacher. (Chen et al. 2014) This critical approach has merit when the focus is on maintaining a high standard of learning in the classroom but has to shift as the teacher-learner relationship evolves in the internet age. Educators no longer have a monopoly on knowledge and in the information age, students from all ages have the potential for greater knowledge on a specific subject than the instructor. Successful instructors will shift their focus on process and provide opportunities for students to demonstrate a synthesis of their ideas, adapting one format (writing to multimedia or multi-sensory etc.) or even leaving it up to the students (depending on the age) to select their own form of expression to meet the learning goals. This flexible model creates an environment where change is welcome and adapts to the needs of the students. Administrators are also encouraged to support teachers whose innovative practices help their students and by allowing them to share with others in their internal school PLN and external PLN to more input and suggestions. An open approach to new ideas and modes of learning is a strong element of creating a vibrant learning community.

Another important resource for all stakeholders in educators (from the learner to the politician) is the adoption of a growth mindset as proposed by Carol Dweck. By transitioning to a growth mindset rather than a fixed one, all stakeholders in education are encouraged to note that our skills, achievements and practices are not fixed and can constantly evolve to be better and more effective. No doubt failure is an important, necessary and acceptable outcome for new ideas and initiatives. This is so true when working online as “pulling the plug” or horror of ‘no wifi” can bring Plan A to a grinding halt! However, the capacity for new student centered models where parents, educators, curriculum leaders, principals and politicians all work from the mindset that FAIL stands for “First Attempt in Learning” encourages innovation and risk taking that forms the basis for the economy in society today and in the future. Another quote that supports a dynamic of change and innovation is from Heidi Siwak “You are only ever working with your current best idea.” This expression of integrative thinking offers an approach that would help educators and administrators use the tools (in our case technological) currently available to help students but be willing to reflect, critically examine, change, revise and update when a new approach or technology becomes available.

Collaborations, partnerships and connections between many perspectives leveraged through technological tools and face to face discussions and interactions become critical for growth. Creating connected learners, educators, parents and politicians allow all stakeholders to share, debate and discuss new approaches to learning and education. Learners need to feel that they can connect their ideas and interests to curriculum whenever possible through technological tools like social media, cloud based creative and productivity tools, educational games and simulations. Parents need to model themselves as the “primary educator” in their child’s life, supporting a growth mindset and seeking help and be recipients of support when social, societal, economic factors inhibit the growth of their child. Educators need to similarly adopt a growth mindset with their curriculum documents, adapting to the newest, best expressions of technology and supported by investigations and interactions within their PLN. Administrators need to focus on school wide assessment practices of both students and educators to create a vibrant learning environment where each student has an individual learning plan and both educators and students are continuously looking to grow with confidence. Politicians are in a position to look longer term and support Ontario’s citizens in each stage of life, with learners at the center, while considering the needs of parents, educators and learning communities with funding, support and a growth mindset. In short, technology’s promise is tied directly to an individual’s ability to learn, unlearn and relearn as Toffler states below.

21st-cent-illiterate
Sources

Achieving Excellence: A renewed vision for Education in Ontario
, Government of Ontario,  2014.
Digital Learning in Ontario Schools, People for Education, 2014.
Dweck, Carol Mindset, 2007.
Desjardins, F.J. PBL: Thoughts on the “Role” Effect, 2011.
Ito et al. Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design, 2013.
Jacobs, Heidi Hayes (editor) Curriculum 21, 2010.
Puentedura, Ruben R. SAMR and Curriculum Redesign 2014.

How can Technology be used to help keep education relevant at all levels?

“For more info about the video:

http://shifthappens.wikispaces.com/

This video presents a glimpse of what the current situation is in terms of information, technology and knowledge generation around the world.   It presents a situation.  As we discussed, if a “problem” is the “gap” or distance between a current existing situation and a different maybe more desirable one, then what you need to do here, is to look at this and first of all decide if “education” as a social project in its current form, meets its own objectives.  Is it and will it be relevant to it’s own context (the current situation and it imaginable short term future)?

More specifically, if digital technology is having such an impact on all domains of human activity, how can this technology be used to help keep education relevant at all levels?

You are asked to discuss this question and try to clearly identify the associated “problems” in this forum.  Maybe start by identifying clearly what the situation is currently and then what would be a desired situation.  Following this, you should likely work on establishing what the “gap” is (and maybe even assessing if it is within the ZPD of each group?).  Each of you is asked to choose a specific perspective (thread in this forum) that you will adopt for the purpose of this activity only. Hopefully we can get a few people looking at each one?  (We will rotate the groups for the other “problem” activities so that you can experience at least four different perspectives during the course).

  • Students
  • Teachers
  • Parents
  • Administrations
  • Politicians”

From Francois Desjardin’s class on September 15th 2014

Along with full time teaching. I have focusing on my Academic studies, so feel free to check out my Academic Research pages.  Each week we are encouraged to explore the perspective on the above list. My Learning (B)log here for EDUC5101g will be recording my progress as I learn and explore. Feel free to explore my latest posts here.
~Anthony

My #summerofpd – A few activities to “level up” my #edtech skills

A summer break for teachers is definitely a privilege and an opportunity for growth.  The intense, 24/7, always on, crazy schedule during term time sometimes demands a complete break to rest, recover and recharge!  I definitely get that and felt that I took enough time to feel refreshed but also decided to use this time to explore  a number of opportunities to “level up” my #edtech skills through some self-initiated studies. (Perhaps the absence of my enthusiastic camp-bound kids was a significant and contributing factor!)  Here are some of initiatives I explored during this time I dubbed the #summerofpd.

1. Certified as a Google Educator
ARC Google Educator Aug.2014

This site offered teacher-created screencasts with accompanying documents for educators to explore how Google Chrome, Docs, Drive, Calendar, Gmail and Sites can aid teaching and learning. The Level 1 tests were straight forward with everyday experience using the apps but the Level 2 questions  proved challenging as their specificity really tested my revision and study skills. (I’ll have to remember that feeling come December when my students mention all the ISP’s, exams, activities, clubs, teams, events presentations on their to-do list.)  Here is a brief summary of my particular favourites. (More detail to come as I can’t give away all my future blog posts!)

Gmail – Added tabs and tags to sort and organize my messages easily (i.e. academic studies, receipts, notifications, personal etc.)
Google Sites – Created student portfolio templates (Hapara Dashboard makes the process even easier)
Google Calendar – Built shared course calendars for myself and students and ready to assign project calendars student led collaborative assignments
Google Chrome – Created distinct users (home vs. school) and pinned tabs to keep important sites keeps separate yet easily accessible, also some added great apps like Powtoon and extensions like Clearly or goo.gl URL shortener
Google Drive – Collected a number of a good screencasts on using Google Apps. I focused on Google Forms and Google Drawings which were relatively unfamiliar to me. Here is a Google Drawing I created as a model on how Google Classroom (another recent release to explore!) will adjust the workflow in my classes.
BVG Workflow sample 2014

Overall, I passed all the exams and that felt good! Here is the proof. Next steps, will be to include my learning into my professional practice and then share with colleagues in my PLN internally and when appropriate externally too.

The link to the Google Certification site is here and even if you do not decide to pay for the tests, there are some amazing teacher-created videos on many Google tips and tricks.

2. Became a Graphite Certified Educator

The Graphite Certified Educator programme appealed to me as an excellent strategy to review and explore the exponentially increasing amount of educational apps, software and websites now available. (I think of this site as Wikipedia for educational technology.) With so many educational technology resources released frequently, this opportunity to “crowd-source” and collect reviews and experiences of educators is invaluable as a tool to stay “current” in busy times and be able contribute my own ideas and suggestions when inspired. I am lucky enough to explore much educational technology in my professional practice, academic practice and self- professed GeekDad moments (i.e Right now its all about the Sphero 2.o with my two but I digress…)

The Graphite site has many features but here are the sections I would like to emphasize.

Field Notes – Here educators create and share their reviews of  educational technology (#edtech) resources (apps, websites and software). Through crowd-sourcing and the work of many, there is an excellent opportunity to collect a vast database of information to benefit those interested in reading reviews from educators with experience with the technology. (After all, how many of us spend time “clarifying” things on wikipedia.org! I think I have a problem as I have to “wikipedia” EVERY form of media (book, article, movie, show etc.) I read or watch :)

Boards – a perfect place to curate Field Notes and educational resources (apps, websites and software) together on a particular theme. I built a board called “Kids Can Code” that allowed me to collect reviews and links on programming for kids from familiar ones (i.e. I even added my Scratch review too) to unfamiliar software  and everything in between in terms of familiarity and quality.

App Flow – A place to share “gourmet” lesson plans which integrate technology successfully into lessons. I like the emphasis on a “Hook” too as an important element for all exemplary lessons,  as can be an overlooked element for successful learning. (I think Daniel Pink covers this in his A Whole New Mind book.) App Flows could be excellent resources for teachers especially when just getting started with a particular #edtech resource. I hope to share my best “gourmet” lessons and resources from my professional practice when appropriate. Sometimes an app, software or website gets even more interesting when you read the specifics on how educators uses it to successfully enhance learning. App Flow provide the app and how is integrated successfully in the class. Helpful!

3. Completed a MOOC ” ICT and Primary”

Full disclosure, I was encouraged to explore a MOOC in a recent graduate course but I signed up for it as it was completely relevant to my professional practice (and I finished the whole course too!)  Here is a link to a full blog post on my takeaways from the MOOC called “ICT and Primary” from the University of London.

In addition, to these opportunities, Twitter and LinkedIn continued to be excellent places for “micro-PD” to collect resources, explore new ideas and connect for professional discourse. Overall, I am deeming the #summerofpd a success (You can do that when it’s self-initiated!)

~Anthony

Reflecting on my first MOOC – ICT and Primary – University of London & Coursea

Screen shot title

In June, I enrolled in my first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and I am pleased to say that I completed all six weeks earning a certificate (with distinction no less!) in this self-directed learning opportunity. Here’s why?  Well, basically, the stars aligned for completing this MOOC for me: as the topic mirrored my everyday professional role as an ICT specialist, MOOC’s  were a recent area of discussion in my latest graduate course and probably the main reason, June means the end of term here in Canada so with some of my own children off to camp I actually had some time to spend on it. And boy was it worth it…

Here are top 5 takeaways from the course. (A link to my full course journal is at the bottom of the page.)

1. ICT provides much opportunity for student learning.

Dr. Laurillard suggests in her book Teaching as a Design Science (Laurillard 2012) that ICT provides learning types or opportunities in the following categories (acquisition, discussion, investigation, practice, collaboration & production.) This model will be helpful for me and my PLN for future lesson planning, collaborations and discussions on technology integration. In the course, there was considerable emphasis on a student’s ability to learn, play and create as a core foundation which resonated with me. Although technology skills are increasingly proving vital for student pursuing academic studies and eventually finding employment, the emphasis of the integration of technology should be primarily focused on creating the best learning opportunity for students.

2. Much can be learned from exploring globally how primary schools integrate technology. 

As teachers we are always so focused on our own schools and students (pupils) that the opportunity to peek through classroom walls (and schools), hear directly from leaders and review specific case studies was a powerful learning opportunity in this MOOC. In particular, a school in Singapore had an excellent 1:1 model which comprehensively involved all members of their learning community. I also liked the emphasis on ICT in UK primary schools away from traditional ICT skills like word processing  towards an updated curriculum emphasizing computational thinking and creative tinkering using technology. Robot arms, Beebots, Probots and other educational programming. Yes, please… In fact, one of the assignments was to make a technology decision for your school, my proposed suggestion was to add more computational thinking opportunities through apps like Scratch Jr., Kodable, Cargo Bot, Hopscotch, Move the Turtle and Daisy the Dinosaur and hardware like Beebots, Probots and Lego We-Do and Mindstorms.

3. I reaffirmed the importance of Computational Thinking and its place in the primary curriculum.

(OK from my blog, you probably figured that I was sold on this one but there are so many interesting resources that I plan to champion in school.)
Here are a few computational thinking resources that I explored in the course.

Developing Computational Thinking. Some interesting ideas and resources from Bosany, Slovakia. Their exploratory approach of Beebots with primary students was helpful and definitely worth adopting.

comp1

National curriculum in England: Computing at Key Stage 1 and 2 Wrote about this in my presentation on Scratch at last year’s ECCO conference but the UK is making some bold moves in updating its curriculum to promote programming which is quite commendable.
national curriculum uk2

Computational thinking video by ISTE

In specific to my experience, I would love to implement Beebots, computational programming apps for primary students like Scratch Jr., Scratch among others  and extend use of programmable Lego like We-Do and Mindstorms. This should make for an exciting year.

4. Collaboration and teacher support is vital for the successful integration of technology.

6.1.1 sarah hill image
This theme was echoed in forums, discussions and projects throughout the course. In one part of course, an Australian ICT teacher named Sarah Hill worked side-by-side with teachers at all stages of integrated projects, starting with an initial professional training and development session, followed by collaboration and team teaching when necessary. Although not mentioned in this specific video,  the need for reflection and evaluation after integrated projects is critical but often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the busy classroom and lives of teachers. I try to emulate this practice in my collaborations with teachers emphasizing support and student needs over any of my technology preferences. Other resources explored in the course include Learning Designer, Diigo and Twitter as excellent online tools for teachers to connect and share resources for the successful integration of technology. Increasingly the creation of a online and growing PLN both inside and outside the school is a helpful strategy for teachers.

5. Children love learning with technology. (I can echo this from over 15+ years as an educator and as a parent of two primary digital tinkerers!)

I believe children see technology as “their” medium with so many opportunities for them to explore and create. Even traditional subjects are more motivating when explored through technology. Here is a research paper from UNESCO on the perspective of children.

Read Chapter 7 ‘Students’ perspective’, of the UNESCO Book ICT in Primary Education. Volume 2: Policy, Practices and Recommendations.

Here is a link to a Padlet with some drawing, pictures and perspectives shared by teachers in the course.
‘Children’s Voices’ Padlet Wall: http://padlet.com/wall/wbarmwiy24



My #summerofpd continues, next up, a more “MOOCy” madness for me. I have signed up for a fun MOOC on the history of  Beatles (Bring on the (pub) quizzes!?) and on a more professional note off to get my Google certification… (More tests !?)

Here is a link to my Course Journal from my Academic research tab.

~Anthony