Category Archives: Pedagogy

Free Common Core Resources via iTunes U

ASCD iTunes U content screen capture.

ASCD iTunes U content screen capture.

If you are looking for professional development and content focused around the Common Core, then check out ASCD’s (Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development) courses and other resources via iTunes U. Courses cover a variety of content for Grades K-12 and are entirely free for teachers and other educators.

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Critical Digital Pedagogy: A Definition

One of the most thought-provoking online tech journals, Hybrid Pedagogy, published this article today. It is incredibly thought provoking and articulate. I hope you will read it and comment on the article. It is reproduced here in its entirety in conjunction with their Creative Commons Licensing. If you enjoy the article, I recommend that you subscribe to their free journal.

On November 21 at the OpenEd Conference in Washington, DC, Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel will present on critical digital pedagogy and MOOCs. This is the first of three articles that inspired that talk.


“There is no such thing as a neutral educational process.”  ~ Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“Pedagogy is not ideologically neutral.” This line has been for me almost a mantra over the last several years. I’ve said variations of it on Twitter, on the About Us page of Hybrid Pedagogy, on the site for theHybrid Pedagogy Inc. non-profit, and in our recent CFP focused on Critical Digital Pedagogy. I’ve circled around this phrase, because I feel increasingly certain that the word “pedagogy” has been misread — that the project of education has been misdirected — that educators and students alike have found themselves more and more flummoxed by a system that values assessment over engagement, learning management over discovery, content over community, outcomes over epiphanies. Education (and, to an even greater extent, edtech) has misrepresented itself as objective, quantifiable, apolitical.

Higher education teaching is particularly uncritical and under-theorized. Most college educators (at both traditional and non-traditional institutions) do little direct pedagogical work to prepare themselves as teachers. A commitment to teaching often goes unrewarded, and pedagogical writing (in most fields) is not counted as “research.”

The entire enterprise of education is too often engaged in teaching that is not pedagogical. There are a whole host of other words I’d use to describe this work: instruction, classroom management, training, outcomes-driven, standards-based, content delivery. Pedagogy, on the other hand, starts with learning as its center, not students or teachers, and the work of pedagogues is necessarily political, subjective, and humane.

What is Critical Pedagogy?

Critical Pedagogy is an approach to teaching and learning predicated on fostering agency and empowering learners (implicitly and explicitly critiquing oppressive power structures). The word “critical” in Critical Pedagogy functions in several registers:

  • Critical, as in mission-critical, essential;
  • Critical, as in literary criticism and critique, providing definitions and interpretation;
  • Critical, as in reflective and nuanced thinking about a subject;
  • Critical, as in criticizing institutional, corporate, or societal impediments to learning;
  • Critical Pedagogy, as a disciplinary approach, which inflects (and is inflected by) each of these other meanings.

Each of these registers distinguishes Critical Pedagogy from pedagogy; however, the current educational climate has made the terms, for me, increasingly coterminous (i.e. an ethical pedagogy must be a critical one). Pedagogy is praxis, insistently perched at the intersection between the philosophy and the practice of teaching. When teachers talk about teaching, we are not necessarily doing pedagogical work, and not every teaching method constitutes a pedagogy. Rather, pedagogy necessarily involves recursive, second-order, meta-level work. Teachers teach; pedagogues teach while also actively investigating teaching and learning. Critical Pedagogy suggests a specific kind of anti-capitalist, liberatory praxis. This is deeply personal and political work, through which pedagogues cannot and do not remain objective. Rather, pedagogy, and particularly Critical Pedagogy, is work to which we must bring our full selves, and work to which every learner must come with full agency.

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire argues against the banking model, in which education “becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor.” This model emphasizes a one-sided transactional relationship, in which teachers are seen as content experts and students are positioned as sub-human receptacles. The use here of “sub-human” is intentional and not exaggeration; for in the tenets set out in Freire’s work (and the work of other Critical Pedagogues, including bell hooks and Henry Giroux), the banking model of education is part and parcel with efforts most clearly summed up in the term dehumanization. The banking model of education is efficient in that it maintains order and is bureaucratically neat and tidy. But efficiency, when it comes to teaching and learning, is not worth valorizing. Schools are not factories, nor are learning or learners products of the mill.

I immediately become deeply skeptical when I hear the word “content” in a discussion about education, particularly when it is accompanied by the word “packaged.” It is not that education is without content altogether, but that its content is co-constructed as part of and not in advance of the learning.

Critical Pedagogy is concerned less with knowing and more with a voracious not-knowing. It is an on-going and recursive process of discovery. For Freire, “Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” Here, the language echoes the sort of learning Freire describes. With a flurry of adjectives and clauses separated by commas, his sentence circles around its subject, wandering, pushing restlessly at the edges of how words make meaning — not directly through literal translation into concepts, but in the way words rub curiously against one another, making meaning through a kind of friction. Knowledge emerges in the interplay between multiple people in conversation — brushing against one another in a mutual and charged exchange or dialogue. Freire writes, “Authentic education is not carried on by ‘A’ for ‘B’ or by ‘A’ about ‘B,’ but rather by ‘A’ with ‘B’.” It is through this impatient dialogue, and the implicit collaboration within it, that Critical Pedagogy finds its impetus toward change.

In place of the banking model, Freire advocates for “problem-posing education,” in which a classroom or learning environment becomes a space for asking questions — a space of cognition not information. Vertical (or hierarchical) relationships give way to more playful ones, in which students and teachers co-author together the parameters for their individual and collective learning. Problem-posing education offers a space of mutual creation not consumption. In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks writes, “As a classroom community, our capacity to generate excitement is deeply affected by our interest in one another, in hearing one another’s voices, in recognizing one another’s presence.” This is a lively and intimate space of creativity and inquiry — a space of listening as much as speaking.

What is Critical Digital Pedagogy?

My work has wondered at the extent to which Critical Pedagogy translates into digital space. Can the necessary reflective dialogue flourish within web-based tools, within social media platforms, within learning management systems, within MOOCs? What is digital agency? To what extent can social media function as a space of democratic participation? How can we build platforms that support learning across age, race, culture, ability, geography? What are the specific affordances and limitations of technology toward these ends? If, indeed, all learning is necessarily hybrid, as I’ve argued, to what extent are Critical Pedagogy and digital pedagogy becoming also coterminous?

The wondering at these questions is, in fact, not particularly new. In his forward to Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Richard Shaull writes, “Our advanced technological society is rapidly making objects of most of us and subtly programming us into conformity to the logic of its system […] The paradox is that the same technology that does this to us also creates a new sensitivity to what is happening.” And, John Dewey writes in Schools of To-Morrow, published decades earlier, “Unless the mass of workers are to be blind cogs and pinions in the apparatus they employ, they must have some understanding of the physical and social facts behind and ahead of the material and appliances with which they are dealing”. If we are to keep every educative endeavor from becoming mill-work — from becoming only a reflection of oppressive labor practices and uneven power relationships — we must engage deeply with its reality.

Increasingly, the web is a space of politics, a social space, a professional space, a space of community. And, for better or worse, more and more of our learning is happening there. For many of us, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between our real selves and our virtual selves, and in fact, these distinctions are being altogether unsettled. In “The New Learning is Ancient”, Kathi Inman Berens writes, “It doesn’t matter to me if my classroom is a little rectangle in a building or a little rectangle above my keyboard. Doors are rectangles; rectangles are portals. We walk through.” When we learn online, our feet are usually still quite literally on ground. When we interact with a group of students via streaming video, the interaction is nevertheless face-to-face. The web is asking us to reimagine how we think about space, how and where we engage, and upon which platforms the bulk of our learning happens.

In Small Pieces Loosely Joined: a Unified Theory of the Web, David Weinberger writes, “We are the true ‘small pieces’ of the Web, and we are loosely joining ourselves in ways that we’re still inventing.” Ten years ago, following the publication of Weinberger’s book, I wouldn’t have imagined the learning networks I have now built with colleagues working together (sometimes simultaneously in real time) in places as seemingly remote as Portland, Madison, Manchester, Prince Edward Island, Sydney, Cairo, and Hong Kong.

This is not to say, however, that there aren’t challenges to this sort of work. In On Critical Pedagogy, Henry Giroux argues,

Intellectuals have a responsibility to analyze how language, information, and meaning work to organize, legitimate, and circulate values, structure reality, and offer up particular notions of agency and identity. For public intellectuals, the latter challenge demands a new kind of literacy and critical understanding with respect to the emergence of the new media and electronic technologies, and the new and powerful role they play as instruments of public pedagogy.

Most digital technology, like social media or collaborative writing platforms or MOOCs, does not have its values coded into it in advance. These are tools merely, good only insofar as they are used. And platforms that do dictate too strongly how we might use them, or ones that remove our agency by too covertly reducing us and our work to commodified data, should be rooted out by a Critical Digital Pedagogy. Far too much work in educational technology starts with tools, when what we need to start with is humans.

We are better users of technology when we are thinking critically about the nature and effects of that technology. What we must do is work to encourage students and ourselves to think critically about new tools (and, more importantly, the tools we already use). And when we’re looking for solutions, what we most need to change is our thinking and not our tools.

In short, Critical Digital Pedagogy:

  • centers its practice on community and collaboration;
  • must remain open to diverse, international voices, and thus requires invention to reimagine the ways that communication and collaboration happen across cultural and political boundaries;
  • will not, cannot, be defined by a single voice but must gather together a cacophony of voices;
  • must have use and application outside traditional institutions of education.

A Critical Digital Pedagogy demands that open and networked educational environments must not be merely repositories of content. They must be platforms for engaging students and teachers as full agents of their own learning.

Pete Rorabaugh writes in “Occupy the Digital: Critical Pedagogy and New Media”:

Critical Pedagogy, no matter how we define it, has a central place in the discussion of how learning is changing in the 21st century because Critical Pedagogy is primarily concerned with an equitable distribution of power. If students live in a culture that digitizes and educates them through a screen, they require an education that empowers them in that sphere, teaches them that language, and offers new opportunities of human connectivity.

Critical Pedagogy is as much a political approach as it is an educative one. As Sean Michael Morris writes, it is “a social justice movement first, and an educational movement second.”

So, Critical Digital Pedagogy must also be a method of resistance and humanization. It is not simply work done in the mind, on paper, or on screen. It is work that must be done on the ground. It is not ashamed of its rallying cry or its soapbox. Critical Digital Pedagogy eats aphorisms — like this one right here — for breakfast. But it is not afraid to incite, to post its manifestos, to light its torches.


Hybrid Pedagogy uses an open collaborative peer review process. This piece was reviewed by Sean Michael Morris and Valerie Robin.

[Photo, “Electric Sun“, by Andreas licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.]

Social Media is Learning Media

My last session of the day is “Social Media is Learning Media” by Patrick Larkin. I have seen Patrick’s work at iPad Summits for years and I’m excited to see him present again. I’m always excited to see administrators talk about Social Media in a positive, empowering way.

Patrick talks about the power of Social Media in his own career. When he was building technology programs at Burlington High School, there were not a lot of people doing similar work in Massachusetts or even the Northeast. Using Social Media enabled him to connect with other educators around the world. Education can be a lonely and isolating job; we spend most of our time with children and adolescents. Social Media can enable us to expand our experiences outside of the classroom, schools, and districts.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Patrick begins by citing Will Richardson’s article, “My Kids are Illiterate. Most Likely, Yours are Too.” What he was talking about was the fact that kids these days are not able to use media in a meaningful way, to curate, asses, and analyze online content. For example, have you fallen for one of those online hoaxes, like “Modern Family Cancelled!” If you had basic digital literacy, you could have quickly assessed whether or not the source was valid (The Onion generally is not).

Patrick then explains his own journey with Twitter. He got online because he was told to check it out at a conference, but didn’t quite get it. However, when it they announced that the President was going to give a “big announcement”, he did a quick twitter search and learned before it went live that the announcement would be the death of bin Laden. You must know and understand how to assess a reputable source. People get duped all of the time. So we need to teach our kids how to assess online content.

As a principal at Burlington High School, Patrick focused on the school’s mission which included educating students to be good citizens. He then argued that students need to be good digital citizens as well.

As Patrick grew as an educator and administrator, he also learned the power of blogging. By posting blog articles about various tools and policies, others would reach out to him. When he first became a Principal, they had a no cell phone policy in the school. Teachers, however, were frustrated that students couldn’t use smartphones to do quick google searches or to look up content. So they changed their policy!

He then was able to guest post for Richard Byrnes on FreeTech4TEachers. As their programs expanded, he was able to host a respectful communication and commentary online via his Principal’s blog! He said that it also empowered them to celebrate their successes. With these web tools, you can put out good news every day, from classrooms to teachers to district wide!

In addition to posting a blog, learn to follow various blogs. I appreciate the shout out to mine Patrick! Using an RSS reader, you can set up your consumption tools. You can also tweet out content. Feedly is a great service for doing this.

Students can use these tools in powerful ways. “It’s amazing what students can do when we just step back a little!” What a powerful statement. We all went to “traditional” schools and classrooms, so backing off and allowing social learning to proceed can freak us out. Patrick notes that we can’t go without good educators, but that empowering students coupled with skilled educators.

Patrick also discusses with us how he created a Social Media PD day with his faculty. He sat them down over an hour, had them set up a twitter account, established a hashtag, and engaged in a twitter chat for an hour. That is just awesome! Patrick is a strong Twitter advocate. He tells us that you can find out anything you want on twitter. Check out the hashtag #edchat.

Social Media also makes us think about what learning environments look like. We can now take things out of the classroom. If a student is out of school for illness, they can Facetime with their partners and complete the assignment. students can physically leave a classroom and learn as a group in other environment.

Using tools like Google Drive, they were able to encompass more dynamic methods of teacher evaluations. Using 8 topics (listed above in his source tools), teachers could share their own examples of meeting those standards. Using a google form to assess walk-throughs.

Another great tool for administrative meeting is using Google Hangouts. I love Hangouts, they’re a great way to engage with users who are (physically) all over. They are now under the GAFE umbrella, which means you can use them with students. You can also check out unhangouts from MIT.

Patrick also highlights that we need to celebrate those who are willing to try and fail.

‘it’s no longer enough to do powerful work if no one sees it.” – Chris Lehmann. I also love Kevin Honeycutt’s “Stop being secret geniuses!” You need to share and engage with others. Participate in EdCamps, build your online presence, engage with others professionals.

Social Media often has a negative backlash. However, Patrick is quick to note that the issue is the person, not the tool. Bad people with bad intentions are going to use whatever tools available to them. Tools does not turn good people into monsters.

 

iPad Keynote Speaker – Greg Kulowiec

Day two of the iPad Summit starts with a Keynote talk by Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec), entitled Plato, Paper & iPads… As someone who has read Plato in the original Greek, I’m curious where he’s going here. I have known Greg for years and seen him present some amazing workshops and talks, so I am excited to see him present.

Greg tells us that this morning, he is going to tell us his story. Greg started teaching in 2005 at Plymouth South High School. When he started, he was wholly on the analogue side and not interested in implementing technology. One day while talking to a peer about a problem he was having, she suggested he check out some “web 2.0 tools.” He didnt’ even know what “web 2.0″ was so he went home and googled it. That was his introduction to integrating technology.

Interactive whiteboard, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Interactive whiteboard, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

With smartboards, the technology is still teacher directed. Greg tells us that he got a group of old computers at one point where students could access a Wiki and send emails. He had zero compass and zero path. Many of us have been in the spot where we are using technology because the technology is available. We don’t know why we’re doing it. It doesn’t help students at all.

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, prisoners see only shadows and believe it is reality. Finally, a prisoner breaks free, sees the fire, and sees the objects creating fire. His reality is shattered. So, as a teacher, where are we in the story? What is the world? Greg argues that if we don’t have a direction or a purpose, then we are living in shadows. We need to shift our focus to the meaning behind our purpose. What skills do we want our students to have? What do we want them to be able to do? So now that he is more meaningful in integration, he begins to use the tool that will work for his objectives, not just to use the technology. Students begin to make real world connections, interaction with the world, creation of ideas, connection to experts, collaboration, etc. The emphasis is completely different. He then asks us to share our stories; when did our perspective on using technology shift?

Greg then tells us about his experience with iPads. When they integrated the iPad into his classroom, he was back in the cave. He starts using the iPad because… it’s there. He starts focusing on apps, not on what you want students to do! If you want a great list, check out EdTechTeacher’s Tech Tools by subject and skill. The first iPads were very limited, you couldn’t even collaborate because Google Drive didn’t even exist! So initially, everything was focused on “the apps.” You got articles like, “Top 10 apps for History teachers!” We’re back in the cave, isolated.

Greg tells us that with the iPad 2, he realized that the iPad could let him be more creative. It was able to let him create content using the video camera, iMovie, and then publish it to the web! However, you’re still in

danger of the tool driving the creation. Greg highlights that language is important in this process. If you tell your students “Today we’re doing Keynotes!” or “Today we’re doing iMovies!” Be conscious of your language so that you do not get locked into the tool. We need to make a conscious decision about how we are using tools, including analogue. We need to look at all of the tools we use around us, including notebooks and paper, to look at our tasks and objectives. Sometimes, paper is more effective than digital tools. Sketchnoting has taken off as a means to capture information. So we should rethink what role an iPad should play in the classroom. Perhaps most of it should take place off line in a notebook. However, the iPad will allow you to create and share in a way that paper will not.

Greg shares with us his experiences with vinyl. He was a DJ, so feeling and manipulating records gave him a unique connection with the music that doesn’t happen with an iPod or an iPhone. So think about this, are we losing anything when we go digital? Greg next shares the ideal iPad Backpack, Blending Digital & Analog. You can use your iPad to organize digital content, use a paper notebook to capture ideas and sketch notes (even taking pics and dropping them into Google Drive or Evernote), and even a dry erase board with markers. Keep your classroom hybrid. Merge online and offline work. Find tools that are flexible and thoughtful, not using tools to drive your work. He demonstrates this with some sticky notes. He asked several participants to write ideas on a sticky note. He then collected them, used the Post-it App to collect them, shared the post it board, and opened it in Explain Everything!

What an energizing way to start the day!

Shakespeare Through a new Lense

The next session I’m attending is Shakespeare through a new lense with James Lucas and Jessica North Macie from the National Cathedral School. You can view the presentation materials here. I’m excited to hear more about teaching Shakespeare using 21st century tools. I’m live blogging this session so please excuse typos and errors!

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Jessica tells us that the course is a combination of textual analysis in conjunction with film analysis. So why did they do this as a video project? Shakespeare works best “on its feet” and we need to learn about broader types of literacy. This project has been updated annually. This past year, they did it on iPads for the first time. It allows for one-stop shop for shooting and editing, features aide for shot composition, and with its long battery life, no worries about it dying on you with multiple classes. With  this project, they check out the iPads to students for the whole week. They also use tools like tripos and microphones so that students can produce sophisticated works.

As students learn and study film, they get to learn about what makes good filming techniques.

Unit Overview of Lesson Plan

Unit Overview of Lesson Plan

This is not only an analysis of the text, but they look at images, concepts, film, etc. They use a variety of media to study using Manga. Next, they use texts to support them delving into the texts. They explore how the text enhances images or even changes how we analyze an image. Visual consumption is an important element for exploring Shakespeare.

To study images, they go to online content and print images that speak to the students. For example, they will go and look at images that convey power to the students. This may involve art, music, and more. They also watch films that cover their topics and have students analyze gesture and movement that convey concepts and ideas. For example, look at the character Puck from a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Students can see how they can personalize and open their own interpretations.

Simultaneous to the Shakespeare study is an analysis of film. We watch the beginning of Benny & Joon to explore how a film is introduced. The colors are saturated with color and that iconic song by the Proclaimers plays in the background.

When giving this assignment, you need to teach students the components of film making: camera framing & movement, script writing, storyboarding, and shooting & editing. They don’t want students to imitate the play, but deliberately create messages based on what they know about the story.

They introduce students to filmmaking with a scavenger hunt – they have to find a shot, such as high angle shot – enjoying the day, medium close-up – a Crank, Extreme Close Up – shocking surprise, etc. Students are allowed to wander the campus as they create these shots.

When students build their storyboard, they have to create a shooting plan. Students can create costumes and design their own performances. However, those are not graded components.

Students also have to write out a script. The instructions are both written and they providing an example. This demonstrates how students must format and present content. They also have a rubric for teh script, using traffic signs (go, slow down, detour, etc) so get students away from thinking about numbers and letters. I wish I could employ this in my classroom! Grades are often a distraction to learning.

In addition to shooting, students must edit. Jessica says that they learn that the magic happens in editing! Students learn about both video and sound editing.

Students also have to explain why they made the choices they did in creating their videos. I like that this takes away from the “flashiness” of the project.

Students also need to be respectful of how they treat the devices. Instead of calling them iPads, they refer to them as their “filming equipment.”

The final products are cross-curricular and address both traditional and modern media. Very cool!

iPad Summit 2014 Boston – Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs

Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacob via Curriculum21.com

Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacob via Curriculum21.com

The iPad Summit Boston is finally here! I have been attending the iPad Summit since its beginning several years ago. This is one of my favorite ed tech conferences. The keynote speaker is Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs of Curriculum21. This blog is live, so please excuse any typos or inconsistent writing! It’s tricky to get it all down.

Heidi’s work on building 21st century curricula is at the forefront of 21st century pedagogical and curricular development. I’m excited to hear her ideas. I’ve been following curriculum21 for years and been inspired by many of the tools and ideas that they highlight. Heidi’s talk is entitled: “Integrating the New Literacies: Digital, Media, Global Into Every Classroom.” Heidi tells us that this is an incredible time to be a teacher. There is so much going on in the world of education. “You’re not learning, if you’re comfortable” – Piaget.

“How do we prepare our learners for their future?”

Heidi tells us that any point we raise on instructional time, professional development, curriculum, schedule, use of space (physical and virtual), student grouping, etc (all practical choices) should be in our students’ best interests. In schools, we seem to forget that. None of us would take a child to a doctor using the same tools and practices of the 1970’s, yet in education we are comfortable with old practices.

Courtesy of Wikimedia

Courtesy of Wikimedia

“What year are you preparing your learners for?”

Are driving principle in schools is assessment. What the assessment is can be standardized tests like state and federal tests, APs, SATs, ACTs, etc. These are event based – one day and time, on a schedule. Schools very rarely prepare their students beyond 1990. Having tools doesn’t ensure a contemporary education. You can do “dumb things” with “smart boards.” You can use an iPad with dated content or as a digitized worksheet processor. We shouldn’t be fascinated with tools, but with the teaching and learning. We are in sedentary rooms, don’t encourage collaboration, ignore play, etc. Our schedule is 19th century, our curriculum the 20th century, and our students are 21st century. We need to elevate the practice.

Are we ready for the Class of 2031?

As we design schools for the future, they need to look very different than they do now. We need to modernize our standards. United States standards are similar to those around the world. Many developed countries, around 2010, began changing their standards. They all reference digital media and digital applications as well as global standards and concepts. However, just because methods are “Classical” doesn’t mean they are worthless. “Classical is timeless.” Quality teaching is timeless. There is a reason why the Socratic Method is still used in classrooms today (we just call it a “curriculum of inquiry”).

Learners Create & Share Knowledge Differently

Students need direction in being self directed. The tool isn’t enough! Students have new needs. This means that we need a new kind of school. We also need a new kind of teacher. This means we need learning environments that keep the classical concepts and respond to modern learning. Our teachers need to be digitally literature, media savvy, and globally connected. As we examine, we need to keep two things in mind: beware of “habits” (they are not classic) and imagine possibilities.  Design teams in schools need to think not only for needs in “the now,” but what the needs of the future are. Heidi says that she’s against “reform” because it simply tweaks things. She advocates “new forms” of school. We have to think about space both physically and virtually. We need to work on multiple levels.

Heidi now shares a few examples of school designs from Fielding Nair International. They are building schools that are both exciting, but incorporate different spaces for different types of learning activities. This means seminars, reading nooks, gardens, workrooms, etc.  Not only is the focus on creativity and innovation, but sustainability, collaboration, and engagement in a variety of ways. This means that we have new names, such as: Town Square, Learning Students, Classics Academy, DaVinci Lab, Interactive Gallery, R & D Garage, etc. By shifting our terminology, it gives us new vision about our curriculum. So an old space can be transitioned into a new learning environment. Institutions are changing structures that inhibit us with new and interesting physical spaces. Heidi states that she believes that these also have parallels in virtual spaces. She says that our thoughts about space are what limit us. One concept she highlights is MakerSpace environments. These are environments where you can create and design.

Looking at new literacies, Heidi thinks our problems is that we tend to be too generic. Instead of online learning, we need to consider on-line courses, events, point-to-point, games, viewing video and live-stream, blogging, networks, etc. Each of these have distinct meanings and value sets. Just choosing an app is not enough.

Heidi states that there is a new type of teacher emerging; an Independent Practitioner Leader. This has democratized education. You don’t need to be on the school board to impact educational ideas and pathways. Now you can broadcast and share a myriad of resources and tools. Even if you are working in a traditional environment, you can breakthrough, broadcast, and share. Teachers are not only working in their classrooms, but in new ways of collaboration with their peers.

How do we help Support a new Type of Teacher?

Heidi states that there are several myths in this: technology = 21st century environment; Innovation is a step by step sequential process; and We are victims of “the system” and are powerless to modernize. It’s not the technology; it simply allows us opportunity for advancement. Innovation is organic; you have to make decisions, go through trial and error. Prefabricated coverage of curriculum does not allow this. Heidi says that the last one, that we are victims, troubles her the most. It is critical that we step up how we can. Even working in a traditional system, there are other tools available to you. You can push for innovation in your school.

New Literacies

So Heidi highlights that literacy is communication, accessing language, and making meaning. To be literate, an effective communicator, is to have a solid command of language. Heidi says that “literacy is a coin with two sides.” One of the sides is phonemic awareness, the ability to decode signs and symbols. That doesn’t make you literate in and of itself. The flip side of the coin, making meaning, cultivates literacy. If you can translate and make responsive meaning, you are literate.

You can apply these concepts to new, digital literacies. Just because you can access tools, doesn’t mean that you are literate. I run into this all of the time. Just because a student can craft a tweet or send a text message doesn’t mean that students are digitally literate. We need to cultivate digital, media, and global literacies. Heidi believes that one of the problems with schools is that we are mooshing these together and not examining them independently.

Digital Literacy

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

If you want a student to be digitally literacy, he needs proficiencies in keyboarding, touch and effect, and voice tools. Heidi believes that touch and effect is the most prominent today, especially with smart phones and tablets. What she doesn’t see happening is enough policy work on access in early childhood. Students need to learn how to touch and interact with a tablet. At what point do we start to work with early childhood students? While keyboarding is dying, Heidi says that it is still important, especially with coding. Voice activated technology is becoming more prominent and will likely become self directed.

Selection Capability & Cataloguing

We need to teach children to curate. They need to know how to strategically select and tag content. We are faced with a glut of information and nee to learn to categorize and organize. Students should be able to make annotated judgments about tools and content. We already do this with our own iPads and Smartphones (all of my social media tools are in one folder labeled “Social”). When a student reads material (in a classical environment, like a book) and a teacher asks them to play “fetch” (What is the name of the main character of a story?). That learning isn’t theirs. However, when a student reads material and categorizes it on their own, it’s theirs. They are becoming literate. Self-navigation is a powerful tool of ownership. Heidi highlights her own website curriculum21. It highlights a clearinghouse of tools which are catalogued and tagged. As an educator, you can have students create their content and submit their tools for the units they are working on. We need to look at creating curriculum with new tools and concepts. One of the most popular methods of employing this in educational environments is student curated Digital Portfolios. Students must curate and design a website, select various modules of work, and then match them to individual standards.

The Power of the Adverb “independently”

If you put the word independently at the end of any standard, it’s a game changer. You want students to be able to play music, draft an essay, and perform research without you. When we are developing modern learners, we are cultivating their independence. Students can create their own apps, navigate social media for learning, and develop their own learning models.

Media Literacy

Receptive and generative capabilities. Students need to be able to critique media, question sources, recognize bias not only in text, but in imagery, framing, and audio. Students right now Google and then go to one of the first few sources like Wikipedia (which is actually pretty good) and a paid resource. Not only with online content, but television literacy is important. Someone chooses what we see and what we don’t see. This includes not only adds, but news resources. Students need to learn more about film and quality. Students need to see quality films, documentaries, etc. Film should be a formal area of study.

After students are able to consume content, they need generate high quality content. Many teachers, however, have no training in creating content, which makes them uncomfortable asking their students to produce it. They need to learn the difference between quality and mediocre content is having students engaged in creating a collaborative rubric. We can all think of a podcast that is good. So choose your favorite and then deconstruct it for content and design. If you want high quality, then be tool specific; e.g. “What makes a good iMovie?” There are many media making tools, but we need to use them with our students.

Instead of faculty meetings, take the time and give it to teachers to explore tools like iMovie, Movie Maker, or Blogger! We don’t have time, we have to make it. A quality digital media project should be an assessment. Instead of a report, we’ll use voicethread or vimeo, or other tools. The media that you create should be a replacement for more dated forms of assessment. You can’t add content to your curriculum, but you can replace it.

Global Literacy

Heidi says that she is most worried about developing Global Literacy. Americans are highly isolated and we do not explore the world around us. The overwhelming majority of Americans will never leave this country… ever. Not everyone is comfortable with it and it’s pricy; even though we are bordered by three countries. Students don’t have a realistic perception of how the world views our country.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

If you look at the job market in a global economy, we have problems. Digital literacy is content free. However, Global Literacy is not. Too many people view this as a “social studies” issue. We need to put the term “geo” in front of our curriculum, geo-economics, geo-ecology, etc. We need to expand the portals. We need to explore our tools in exploring this topic. Heidi believes we need to be aggressive about this. Schools are not working on this. We do not study the BRIC countries, most don’t know who they are. We need to use our digital tools to explore these concepts in a curricular driven environment. Global literate learners have four competencies: investigate the world, recognize perspective, communicate ideas, and take action. Heidi recommends Facing the Future, which incorporates contemporary queries with repurcussions for the future. These are inherently interdisciplinary. We need to deliberately globalize our schools and communicate these ideas. Not only connect our students with others, but our teachers and administrators as well. You can find tools for doing this on curriculum21.

Heidi finishes up with a thank you and encourages us to cultivate our own digital and global experiences.

iPad Summit Pre-Conference at Cambridge Innovation Center & MIT Media Lab

It’s November so I have left beautiful South Florida (where it was 77 degrees) to Boston (50 degrees and dropping) for the annual iPad Summit hosted by EdTechTeacher. For the first time in a long time, I am attending a conference solely as a learner. Instead of prepping for my own presentations, I just get to enjoy the events.

This year, they switched up the pre-conference workshops. I had the privilege of visiting the Cambridge Innovation Center and MIT’s Media Lab. What I loved about this was that it wasn’t about curriculum, lesson plans, or pedagogy. Instead, it was a big picture discussion. What are employers looking for today? How do we foster entrepreneurship in our students? I also got to see some great tools in action that I am not allowed to share with the public.

At the Cambridge Innovation Center, we met Vickie the founder of Youth CITIES, an organization that fosters entrepreneurship in young children. In meeting with her and other leaders in innovative practices, the notion that “it’s what you can do, not what you know” was highlighted. If we can get kids to think outside the box and build professional networks, they will be ahead of the curve in the real world. They also encourage more team building and social interaction. While in academics we are graded solo, in the real world we work in teams and on projects.

These magnets change color when you press them! Thanks Gail for the pic!

These magnets change color when you press them! Thanks Gail for the pic!

After lunch, we got to visit the MIT Media Lab. If you are familiar with the work of Seymour Papert, you know that he espouses the view that we learn by doing and grow by sharing and collaborating with others. The Media Lab highlighted this experience to the extreme. All around us were open labs. While the focus was technology the projects were on medical sciences, music, and we finished in Lifelong Kindergarten where, surrounded by legos, we learned about Scratch, Scratch Jr., and (my favorite) MakeyMakey:

The Education Arcade, with its focus on learning using games, was the highlight of my day!

I wish I could put down on paper all that I learned, but I’m just starting to process it all. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the conference brings!