"We don't even know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward. In times of tragedy, of war, of necessity, people do amazing things. The human capacity for survival and renewal is awesome."
- Attributed to Isabel Allende
It is currently the start of week ten, the last week of the school term for NSW schools and the beginning of the downhill run to a two week break from the trials and triumphs of the classroom. There is something about term three. I personally found over the last few years in the classroom that term three felt like the accelerator had been jammed wide open and all you could do was to try and hang on.
I asked a teacher last week how she felt about this, the breakneck pace that pervaded the term, and she indicated that she had been teaching for about twenty years and that term three used to be the quiet term. There used to be very few events that would occur in term three other than the trial HSC exams but that over the last ten years, this empty nature of the term had resulted in everything being dumped into term three leaving it, in many ways, far busier than the rest of the year.
This year, that feeling of just hang on has been compounded by an unusually sever flu season. I have had a number of schools postpone scheduled visits because the person I was meeting with was off sick, I myself have had some days off sick (and those who know will know how rare that is), Youngling picked up bronchiolitis and was sick for a while, and teacher-friends have told me how they've had incredible numbers of absences, beyond anything they've seen in the past.
So take this impending break to rest, recuperate, and be ready for the final term. Get your health sorted and catch up on your sleep. See you next term.
In this FTPL video I show you how simple it can be to insert images into a Google Slide deck, particularly using the inbuilt search function that highlights images labelled with permission to reuse with modification.
For more FTPL videos click here.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I demonstrate the import slides feature in GSlides. For more helpful FTPL videos, click here.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I remind viewers of a feature that was quietly introduced to Google Classroom some time ago - the ability to group posts based on a topic tag.
For more helpful FTPL videos, FTPL Videosclick here.
The Teacher Education Review podcast is a one that I listen to when it comes out because of the well thought out discussions and research-driven conversations it contains. As Cameron Malcher says, it bridges the gap between research, policy, and practice. A recent episode, TER #096, featured an interview that Dan Haesler conducted with Katharine Birbalsingh, the Principal/Head Teacher of the controversial Michaela Community School in the UK.
I have to admit that I know very little about the Michael Community School, other than it is regarded as controversial due to its no excuses approach to education and so I was intrigued to hear about the school from the Principal herself.
The interview with Katharine begins at the 45:11 mark in the episode and I would very much encourage you to listen to it. It is a reasonably lenghty interview and addresses some of the most common critiques that are apparently levelled the school. I found it very interesting. From what I have heard in the media and through social media outlet, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a school run by the wicked witch of the west. Katharine, however, came across as very articulate, passionate, and knowledgable about education. Granted, that does not equate to a good educator, but it is a good base from which to have a conversation with someone.
I found it intriguing that at various points I found myself nodding in agreement with what Katharine was saying. Her thoughts on engagement, that it should be about the subject being engaging in and of itself through the authentic pedagogy rather than engaging because there is a singing and dancing teacher (obviously hyperbole, but the message comes through I believe) is something I think many teachers would agree with. Her comments around behaviour, and I am paraphrasing here, that students behave because they buy into the school and realise they are getting something back (an education) when they behave and that misbehaviour is the result of a disconnect between the teacher and the student through the pedagogy, was intriguing.
This is a perspective on behaviour that I have not heard before and I would be interested in your opinion on this area. Personally, I feel that I can see where Katharine is coming from with this, but that it is only part of the equation. I am a big believer in physics (hard not to be) and that there is a strong connection between physics and the classroom. Newton's third law of motion states:
that for every action (force) in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction.
The connection may seem woolly, but my interpreation of this into the classroom is that everything happens for a reason. A student is acting out, misbehaving, for a reason, and often there is some sort of deficiency, either in the classroom or at home, that is causing this. Maslow's Hierarchy of needs should be at the front and centre here, and we should be asking ourselves, when a student is acting out, what has happened that caused this reaction? I do not buy, for one moment, the notion that some kids are just naughty (hat seems as accurate as saying that some people are just racist) and so the notion that misbehaviour is a lack of buy-in into the school is an interesting one.
I think the only real area where I was in outright disagreement was the no excuses policy itself. I can see where Katharine is coming from with this, but I disagree. There are going to be factors outside of a child or parent's control that causes an event or incident that is at odds with school policy or rules. Punishing the child for that seems unjust in my opinion.
I would very much encourage you to listen to the interview and share your thoughts, either here through the comments, or on twitter.
Some of you may remember that in the mid-year holidays, I sent out an invitation to teachers interested in flipped learning, to join me at the ClickView to utilise a forward board to record content for use in their flipped classroom. The response was huge and we had lots of interest and some great conversations with teachers who joined us.
I am excited to announce that we will be again opening up the ClickView office to teachers who are interested in joining us to utilise my forward board to record flipped learning content. On Thursday 5 October, teachers who book in for a thirty minute session will be able to come to Clickview's Pyrmont office to join us in recording content to take back to their classroom.
If you are interested in booking in for a thirty minute session please contact me via the contact form here or via email at email@example.com.
If you are not familiar with what a forward board is, you can see an example here. If you are interested in building your own forward board, they are not particularly difficult. You can access the plans I used to build mine here. Feel free to share around with anyone you know how may be interested.
In this flipped teacher professional learning video, I focus on Turbonote, a tool that allows you to annotate videos and generate PDFs from those notes. Incredibly useful as a study tool, and a tool that will potentially play a big role in flipped classrooms.
For more helpful FTPL videos, please click here.
After one of the breakout sessions I presented on flipped learning at EduTECH last term, I had a number of people coming up to ask questions, one of whom was a young lady named Ella. Ella is in year six and wanted to know how she could convince her teacher to use flipped learning in the classroom. Knowing her mother through meeting at FutureSchools, we arranged a time to chat further over Skype so that I could find out more about why Ella wanted to have flipped learning happening in her classroom. The two videos below represent the two parts of that interview. Part one focused on Ella and her views with some contribution from Mel, her mother; whilst the second part focused on Mel's thoughts on flipped learning and how she flips in her roles as an IT Integrator.
"ipsa scientia potestas est" ('knowledge itself is power')
-Sir Francis Bacon's Meditationes Sacrae (1597)
This is an article that I wanted to write back in March but did not have the time to do so, so it is rather out of context now in August. There had been a series of tweets as part of a lengthy discussion amongst several people about knowlegde vs the four Cs and domains of knowledge and the tone that came across was completely derisive of knowing stuff with comments giving the impression that if an activity did not require one of the four Cs or an upper level activity from domains of knowledge, then it was useless in the classroom.
This attitude is coming through in the media as well such as in this article from The Sydney Morning Herald. This article does acknowledge that the league tables and accountability pressures that stem from NAPLAN and similar tests are detrimental to teachers as well as students and have changed the face and perception of education in Australia. I remember taking the Basic Skills Test in Year Five and there was no hullabaloo whatsoever. It was a short test that we just did and then got back to our normal routines in class. Not so with NAPLAN nowadays.
But I digress.
The impression I was getting from this conversation was that unless my students were engaging in upper levels of domains of knowledge, I was a poor teacher and doing my students a disservice. I agree that we need to have our students engaging with those upper levels, however, if they do not know anythign, how can they do so?
My question is this: when did we devalue knowledge and focus on the need to be able to do somethign with it? It does not matter how good your lesson is, or if it is on the top level of domains of knowledge / Bloom's Taxonomy, if the students know nothing about that topic they will not be able to engage with it. We need to find a balance and stop denegrating knowledge for the sake of appearing that we are doing something with knowledge. I think that this comes back to cognitive load theory, which I have written about in the past, and remember that if a student is too busy trying to remember what something is or means then they will not be able to apply, analyse, synthesise, or create, let alone collaborate, communicate or think critically with that knowledge due to the load on their working memory.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this issue. Have you come across this sentiment yourself? Do you think I have the wrong end of the stick entirely? Let me know in the comments.
"I'm realizing for the first time, your life goes on while you're trying to pursue this career. I saw my career as everything. But you have this life, too. Living your life fully, you come to know yourself better. You'll find the place for it."
- Attributed to Nicholas D'Agosto
Whilst this is rather late, given that term two ended nearly a month ago, I have been struggling with time and juggling a new direction in my career along with my family responsibilities and have not had time to write. Term two was, for me, incredibly hectic with trips for work visiting schools in Wagga, Wollongong, Tamworth, Coffs Harbour (twice), Port Macquarie and Nambucca Heads, and Dubbo, attendance at FutureSchools in Melbourne, the Association of Independent Schools IT conference in Canberra, EduTECH, FlipCon New Zealand, two deaths in the family which resulted in a funeral in Tamworth on one day followed by the second in Western Sydney the following day, as well as continuing to wrap my head around being a father to an increasingly independent and cheeky daughter.
One thing that I learned in term two was that I am often too focused on the details and forget to look at the bigger picture. I was away from home far too often in term two because I would look at a week and see that I had no bookings and so could get in a trip to a regional area to visit schools without looking how often that would have me away overall. A rookie error and one that I've corrected by blocking out the weeks when I will and will not be travelling regionally throughout term three and four to ensure no more than five regional trips of two to three nights each. Mrs C21 is much happier about that arrangement than she was with term two's travel arrangements.
I know that I have commented on this before, but I have noticed how there is a common threa running through every school that I have visited thus far, irrespective of socio-economic status, sector base (i.e. Public, Denominational, Independent etc.) and that is that students are all trying to deal with being teenagers and teachers are trying to do the best they can with what they have. As someone from w wholly public school background, as a student and a teacher, it is easy to fall into the trap of just assuming that non-public school teachers are in rich schools and therefore have it easy. I am coming to realise that that is certainly not the case. Whilst the school may be better funded and thus have access to better or more resources, the expectations and demands placed upon teachers are commensurately greater. The obvious example of this is the expectation in many non-public school that every teacher is involved in coaching a weekend sporting team and thus required to spend Saturday morning at a sporting ground with that team.
This realisation has reinforced the need for us as a profession to band together and protect our professionalism and use our expertise as educators to know how to teach to build and maintain networks to share knowledge, resources and practice across schools as we support the influx of new teachers to the profession. A quote from someone at FutureSchools has stuck with me; there is not a dearth of excellence i teaching, but the distribution of excellence is uneven.
Get involved in your local TeachMeet group and help promote professional unity and collegial sharing. Find an early career teacher with whom you can work and mentor to help support their growth as a teacher; but be mindful that they can also possibly teach you something. Brian Host said something to me a few years ago that has stayed with me and gave me the courage to be more active in sharing. He asked if I was presenting at FutureSchools (which is where we were when we were chatting) and I laughed at the apparent absurdity of the notion, remarkign that as an early career teacher I had nothing to offer on par with what others at FutureSchools could offer. Brian said (paraphrasing) that it is not about how long you have been teaching but about how you have been teaching.
I think that my mentality at that point in time is typical of many early career teachers as there seems to be an undercurrent of bias towards more experienced teachers, especially when it comes to trying to find a permanent job. We all come to teaching with out own backgrounds and we need to find a way of sharing that appropriately. Put your hand up to share at a TeachMeet, ask your Principal if you can share a pedagogical approach that has been working for you in the next staff meeting, apply to present at a conference...get involved and share your knowledge and expertise. Early Career Teacher is non synonomous with has no idea what they are doing. There will be somethign they are an expert in and as more experienced teachers we need to find and nurture those things whilst supporting them in the areas where they are strggling.
There is a great chance to get involved coming up. Steph Salazar is organising a TeachMeet event focusing on support and encouraging Pre-Service and Early Career Teachers which is taking place on Tuesday 22 August at Woolpack Hotel Parramatta.
"Have something cool to share as a PST or early career teacher? Perhaps you have golden advice for PSTs! Indicate below that you are interested in doing a presentation and we will be in contact. Any questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @stephygsalazar."
The above snippet is what this particular TeachMeet is focusing on. Not in Sydney? There is likely a TeachMeet group in your area and if not, then why not start one? TeachMeet events in my area started quite small several years ago and were organised by one person once a year. Now TMCoast runs an event each semester and has a consistent showing of between forty and fifty educators.
I will end this article there as it is will and truly well away from where I thought it would go. I would encourage you to register for TMWooly though as it will be a great event with lots of knowledge for and from pre-service and early career teachers.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video, I show you how to add columns in GSheets and then update your sum and average formulas.
For more FTPL videos click here.
"Key points from #FlipConNZ: 5. #flippedlearning allows more powerful relationship-building with students"
- Stephen McConnachie
Last term I had the opportunity to travel to Wellington to attend the very first FlipCon event in New Zealand. It was fantatic to meet so many people who were interested in developing flipped learning in their school or in finding out about it for the first time. The host venue, Samuel Marsden Collegiate School provided an excellent venue, though they were unable to bring the weather to the party and as an Australiam it provided a moment of hang on....what? when we were given the emergency notices which consisted of in case of en earthquake.... but which of course is part and parcel of living in New Zealand these days.
There were lots of interesting conversations around flipped learning and a lot of educators just taking the first steps on their pathway towards becoming flipping teachers. It was also great to meet a few New Zealanders whom I have known via Twitter for a long time as well as to catch up with Jon and his team again. There is a lot of interest in flipped learning and I hope that those people were supported and encouraged as they returned to their schools and endeavour to develop their flipped practice. There is always lots of online support for flipped educators via Twitter of course, and Jeremy Cumming has set up a New Zealand Flipped Learning Network facebook page.
If you are interested in engaging with Jon's Flipped Learning Level I Certification, you can find the it here. If you are interested in connecting with other educators, you can find my list of flipping educators on twitter here, as well as reviews of previous FlipCon sessions.
"Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways."
Mental health is a topic that we a society do not seem to like talking about. There is so much stigma around it which continues despite the high-profiile people who have come out expressing how they are battling with it, the high-profile suicides on the back of depression that have occurred in recent years, and the work that organisations such as Lifeline, Beyond Blue, and The Black Dog have done to raise awareness of the legitimacy of mental health.
When I sat down to write my presentation for FlipCon during the week after EduTech it was all I could think about, was mental health and the impact that student-teacher relationships can have on our students' mental health. There was nothing else coming to mind, every idea that came up ended up leading back to mental health and so I worked with that and delivered a speech that I am, content wise, quite happy with.
It generated some very interesting discussions about mental health that I do not think would have come up otherwise and I wonder how many teachers would like to be able to do more about this issue but do not know where to start.
Abraham Maslow's 1943 article A Theory of Human Motivation was the world's introduction to the now famous Hierarchy of Needs and it changed the way many people, especially educators, understand of childrens' socio-emotional development and is still a core component of many educational psychology courses.
There are many resources available to educators to help understand how to deal with mental health challenges in their students, how to appropriately teach strategies for working through mental health issues, and for pointing students towards appropriate help. BeyondBlue have a Secondary Schools program; and as part of the masterclass with Jane Burns, we spent time talking about a range of options available to both students and teachers that can support mental health strategies, which you can read about here.
If you know someone struggling with mental health, please do not delay in helping them seek treatment. Give it the same consideration you would a physical illness.
In this Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video I show you one way of setting up your Google Form to e-mail the responses to designated e-mail addresses.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
In this form I explore how to set up branching in Google Forms. This function allows you to have different pathways and questions through a Form depending on the repondents answers to particular questions.
If you have missed any of the videos in the FTPL series you can find them all here.
"What is the most valuable use of your face-to-face time with your students?"
- Jon Bergmann
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was through a media pass provided by the organisers.
In 2014 whilst on my final professional experience placement as part of my initial teacher education, my supervising teacher was exploring flipped learning. We had a chat about his understanding of what it was, how it worked, and how he was modifying things to suit his class. That particular class was a combined Year Five and Six class and he was using what I now know is in-flipping. The experience was enough to whet my appetite and so when I saw that Jon Bergmann was running a masterclass on flipped learning as part of the FutureSchools conference the following year (read my review of that masterclass here), I registered and began my journey down the flipped learning rabbit hole.
As my regular readers would be aware, I am now employed with ClickView, whose core business plays neatly into flipped learning. As part of their sponsorship package woth EduTECH this year, they were able to run three thirty-minute breakout sessions, and asked me to run them on flipped learning. It would have been very easy to talk for thirty minutes about flipped learning from a ClickView perspective, however, as a teacher I know how annoyed I have been to have been given a sales pitch in the breakout session. It would also have been incredibly simple to spend the thirty minutes explaining what flipped learning is and why it is so useful as a paradigm for education. Again, as a teacher I would have been annoyed to have been given a presentation in a breakout session which had nothing I could take away and put into practice and so I decided to flip the breakout session, recording the below pre-learning video.
The above video is a very brief introduction to the why and what of flipped learning, however, there is enough in there to give anyone watching it a basic understanding. This meant that in the breakout session, Josh Aghion and I could spend the entirety of the session focused on the how of flipped learning. The reason I wanted to do that is that I wanted the audience to have an understanding that flipped learning can be easy, can be cheap to implement both financially and in regards to time, and that there are plenty of resources to support their learning as they develop their flipped classroom skills.
During each of the breakout sessions, I spoke about the general workflow of flipping your classroom. As part of this component, Josh actually provided two live demonstrations of creating flipped content. One was done using some screencapture software called Camtasia (my preferred tool) and we spoke about Screencastomatic as a free alternative. Josh recorded a short demonstration clip (less than two minutes long) from a slide deck we had prepared on adding with decimals which would then be able to be used immediately in class. The other live demonstration that we did was recording something using a smartphone or tablet whilst writing on a whiteboard or similar. Again, this video was less than two minutes long, but still got the key learning objective across and was very easy to do. We also showed some prerecorded videos showing other options for developing flipped learning video content; a video by Matt Burns using a document camera, a video using a forwardboard by Heather Davis, and a video recording of physical action by InnovativeTraining4All that I have actually used the last two years to teach students how to play (modified) Tic Tac Toe.
I was incredibly nervous leading up to the first breakout session as I knew that it was scheduled to be a packed house and it was an unfamiliar environment to present in. There was also the (self) added pressure of there being people in the room that I knew. That said, I feel like each of the sessions went well. The live demonstrations went off without a hitch, I did not get too caught up and stumble over my words, the slide deck was all in the correct order, and we finished the presentation with about approximately ten minutes to spare. There were a few questions proffered by audeince members in each session, however, people were able to leave with about five minutes to go before the scheduled end of the session which I think was a nice change from many sessions where you are busy checking your watching and internally wishing the presenter would hurry up. A number of people came up to myself or Josh after each session to ask specific questions and as we had finished early we were able to spend the time with them answering those questions.
I realised when I returned to my hotel room that night that I had forgotten to talk about one important potential use for flipped learning and that is for our own professional development. I made a short comment about it over Periscope that night. I also realised, after I was asked about flipping in infants classes on Twitter that afternoon that I had completely forgotten to speak about in flip vs out flip and so made a slightly longer comment over Periscope on the weekend about flipping in an infants class.
I was chuffed to hear that after each breakout session there was a mini influx to the ClickVIew stand of people wanting to know more about the Forwardboard. The plans for my forwardboard, the one on the ClickVIew stand, are freely available here and includes a list of materials and costings, a time lapse video of the construction process, and step by step instructions. As I mentioned in the sessions, mine cost me $315 in materials and about three hours of labour to make. A second set of hands is helpful or needed at a few points, but it is a fairly easy process and would potentially make a good project for a senior TAS class. You can see an example here of what a video looks like as raw footage and as finalised footage here.
It was also exciting to see and hear the impact of the presentation. James Gray tweeted that he had gone home and made his first flipped video and another came to ask me some questions and had her daughter (currently in Year Six) who wanted to know how she could convince her teacher to use flipped learning. We are in the process of organising an interview as I want to hear more from mother and child about their perspectives on flipped learning.
I personally feel like the breakout sessions were a success. The feedback has been largely positive (though if you do have constructive feedback, please let me know), and the conversations on Twitter that I have had as a result have also been positive with people wanting to know more.
If you do want to learn more abuot flipped learning, I have restructured my Starting with Fipped Learning page to be more user-friendly with distinct sections. It has a range of other resources that you will find useful, including review articles from FlipCon 2016 and 2015. I am also in the process of planning more videos on the how side of flipped learning. Additionally, if you have not done so I highly encourage you to undertake the Flipped Learning Certification as it is a very comprehensive prorgam that covers all areas of flipped learning.
Josh and myself are planning to run a day during the holidays for teachers to book a half-hour timeslot to visit the ClickView office and record some content using the forward board. THe date we have set aside is Thursday 13 July and will initially be offered to those who registered for the breakout sessions and they will be contacted once we have details finalised; though it will of course be first in best dressed.
If you are not from Sydney and therefore unable to make it for that day, we are looking at doing something similar in Brisbane and Melbourne, as well as developing some Flipped Learning Masterclass sessions that we can offer. Stay tuned as we will let you know through various channels when those details are finalised.
Thank you for reading this article. If you have missed any of the articles in this EduTECH 2017 series, you can find the complete list here.
"Why have a computer lab? You wouldn't put the pencils and paper in their own room."
- A teaching colleague
Greg Whitby was next on my dance card, speaking about schooling in a 1:1 world in what promised to be an interesting presentation. As someone who follows Greg on Twitter and has interacted with him on occasion, I have found him to be honest and forthright vis-a-vis his opinions. Never in my experience to the point of being rude or disrespectful, but you know exactly where he stands. 1:1 as an approach to education is a topic of much interest and in which many schools have invested significant financial resources into rolling out, however, sometimes forgetting to put appropriate investment into infrastructure, teacher professional development, or into the students around ensuring they understand how to get the most out of the technology.
1:1 schooling is still a contentious issue as was seen in March 2016 when then Headmaster of Sydney Grammar School, Dr. John Vallance, was quoted in this article that technology in the classroom is nothing but a distraction. Whilst I disagree with that sentiment, I completely agree with him that I personally would invest in staff before technology, however, I believe that to discount technology as a legitimate pedagogical tool en masse is a mistake. What I can agree with is that it can be a distraction and a money pit; if the appropriate investments in staff pedagogy are not made. However, I digress.
Greg began by reminding us that the pace of change in technology is so rapid that as a society we cannot possibly keep up with everything, especially when we take into account that there are self-learning algorithms in play and that Microsoft recently shut down Tay, its AI driven supercomputer. Referring to the current trend of getting coding into as many schools as possible, Greg asked why we need our students to learn to code when the algorithm can do its own coding. There are a lot of obvious responses to the literal question, however, I suspect that Greg was driving at something deeper, questioning the wide-sweeping move towards embedding coding into the curriculum, however authentically that is or is not being done. It is a critique I can understand and share, I am not sold on the need for coding to be embedded into the curriculum. What is being taught that cannot be taught in a different way that does not result in more being added to the workload of teachers?
Greg moved on remark that he would be happy with glacial movement in the design and development of curriculum in NSW. This would mean there is at least some movement as opposed to no movement. I found this interesting. I have no experience with the process of writing a curriculum document, either now or at any point in the past, however, from what I have gleaned from staffroom stories across different schools is that the process is the same but the focus in the new curriculum is simply a little bit different according to the flavour of the decade.
This frustration seems to come back to the supposedly new skills often referred to as twenty-firsty century skills, in particular, (critical) thinking. SInce when, Greg argued, has thinking been a soft skill? I have written about the oddity of twenty-first century skills. With regards to thinking skills, the argument was made across social media that many students (and adults, for that matter) detest actually needing to think for themselves, at least if you ask teachers; whilst they are also used to the game of school wherein they are often drip-fed the information and answers they need to pass the test or exam at the end of the unit.
Greg's fire and passion for the topic was coming through loud and clear as he exhorted the audience to let go and be learners ourselves. Part of this continual learning is about being flexible to each day as we school pedagogical and timetabling structures change to meet the needs of society. There are now many teachers who do not know what their timetable looks like each day until they arrive as it is dependent uopn what their students want or need to learn. THis was exemplified in a video of Rusty from High Tech High. Rusty said that his focus is on asking students what they need to learn in order to achieve the big objective and to act as their guide and mentor as much as their teacher.
Good learning, Greg continued, has always involved STEM subjects integrated together. STEM is another area that I find puzzling. I do not deny that STEM, as individual subject areas are important, by howver, I do question why those subject areas? Why not The Arts, oratory/rhetoric, or philosophy? One of the lessons of my own education that stands out to me was from Year Six with Mr Hawkins (long since retired I suspect). We read The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch by Ronda Armitage and one of the tasks that we needed to complete was to devise a way to get the Lighthouse Keeper's lunch to him without the seagulls getting into it.
This would be considered a STEM project, however, it was just a way of combining a range of subject areas into one unit for effective teaching. We learned about angles, the hypotenuse, design principles, how to use hot glue guns and balsa wood, addition and subtraction with decimals, some basics of thermodynamics (what if it was a hot lunch and what about his coffee?), some introductory physics relating to gravity, mass, and momentum and that is simply off the top of my head (I think there was also some sort of creative writing task as well, however, cannot recall details about that part). That single unit stands out in my memory as fun, challenging, rewarding, and a highly effective use of teaching time from a single stimulus. It highlights Greg's point that an experiential learning framework can be part of the larger picture, especially when driven by an inquiry cycle.
Greg changed tack now, remarking that he no longer talks about improving schools. That conversation has been going on for over a hundred years and arguably has made no impact; they look the same, the pedagogy is often the same, much of the content is the same. The issue around schools is not that we need to improve them but that we need to transform them; and to this end STEM is merely a lens to look through, not the sole thing that we should be doing as STEM is driven by the business model, they are skills that business need. However, the business-driven model has not worked thus far for education and I trust that we all know the saying relating insanity and repetition.
There is no silver bullet or panacea in education as it is far to complex and varied and so we need, as teachers, to be able to adapt to what the demand is. There is change happening in many schools, however, as Lisa Rodgers remarked at FutureSchools this year there are pockets of excellence but the distribution is uneven.
This need to grow and adapt should be driven by the lead learner, which I saw from another congress should always be the Principal. As part of their leadership they should be modelling what Greg refers to as the three Rs, however, rather than reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic, it should be radical, relentless, and resilient. This should be Principals empowering teachers to truly transform their classrooms. Simply putting new technology into old classrooms merely results in old classes with expensive technology and no transformation unless there has been pedagogicla development. This need for transformation is the radial urgency of the now according to Greg.
Thank you for reading this article. If you have missed any articles in my EduTECH 2017 series, you can find them all on this page.
"I'm yet to have a student tell me they can't use technology in class because they haven't had professional development on it."
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was through a media pass provided by the organisers.
I was particularly looking forward to this presentation from Kim Maksimovic (@Kmakly). The discussion of I'm not good at tech is one that I hear from both teachers and from students. This issue of self-efficacy around the use of technology is a significant one for both students and teachers given the dependence in so many areasfor technology in our school and general society. The term digital native is one that comes up a lot and it has entered common parlance in society, yet there are a lot of issues with the binary interpretation of digital nativness (such as here and here).
Kim began by outlining the historical context of Pymble Ladies College (PLC) and that the school began their Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) around twenty years ago. PLC has a long history of having an IT Integrator role on staff, whose purpose is to keep up to tdate with new technology and an understand of its use in pedagogical practice. This then allows them to be able to work with teachers, helping them understand how they can achieve their goals in flass through appropraite and authentic use of technology. It is a critical role and one that I am seeing more and more of across the state.
Kim next introduced us to Annie, a Year Twelve student who identified as having low self-efficacy with technology yet identified a need and founded the school's Entrepreneur society to promote links between current and former students along with Alumni. This is an incredibly powerful connection yet one that I really one see occurring in private schools. I would love to hear from anyone who has some thoughts on why that is. Is there some sort of cultural difference that creates the environment in which old boys / old girls networks are formed and maintained in private school schools but not state schools? Is it financial? Is it purely tradition? I would be very interested in people's thoughts on this area. But I am getting off point.
Students are often consumers of digital media and we need to encourage them to refocus their use of technology to productive learning and creation of content. On the back of this, Kim posed a question to the audience; what does it mean to be good at technology? This is an interesting question and I wonder how different our responses to that question would be. The question is complicated by a range of actors identified by Chris Sacco in this tweet. To that end, I have set up an open Google Form asking that question and have included it below.
As part of the Entreprenuer Society, a group of students attended the Amazon Web Summit and one stuent was quoted as saying that "...as someone who had little interest in the tech industry, I found it absolutely amazing to be able to participate in this experience. For another student it highlighted the stark gender inequality in the tech industry and that they "...feel empowered to explore [technology and its endless potentials] in order to create a movement of advancement for the future" (quotes here).
These comments highlight that just because our students now have been born in a time where technology use is ubiquitous and embedded in many ways into the fabric of our society, this does not mean that they are digital natives. While they absolutely are if we are referring to the time in which they are born, this is rarely the context in which the term is used. Having smart phone in your hand regularly from an early age is not indiative of being able to utilise that device (or other digital technology) either effectively or appropiately. I also feel it is worth noting that not being a supposed digital native is also not indicative of a lack of self-efficacy with technology. Many teachers using technology brilliantly and trying new things are from Generation X and many teachers who are not comfortable with tehnology are from Generation Y.
One strategy to support those who self-identify as having low self-efficacy with technology is to leverage the help of those who profess to high self-efficacy; a structure of students as experts. I have seen structures in schools wherein the technical support is provided by a student body, tech ninjas, and their services are bookable. There are lots of ways of managing this kind of structure depending on the school context.
Part of being a teacher, Kim commented, is about being a learner first. We need to acknowledge what we know, however, we also need to acknowledge what we do not know and seek assistance in filling those gaps, including technologically. I'm not good at IT is, in my opinion, a cop out excuse these days. When there are so many tutorial videos freely available on so many aspects of using technology I cannot see a valid excuse for not engaging (except perhaps for retiring in the next twelve months). Kim then quoted Michael Fullan who remarked that pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator. For me, this means selecting technology based upon what we need or want to achieve pedagogically rather than choosing the lesson based on the shiny new tool, as Paul Hamilton shared form his experiences here.
Another strategy for helping students to utilise technology effectively and appropraitely is to work with them to explore, build and maintain their own networks. One way that we can help our students with this is to build up inter-school networks and events such makerfaires, coding clubs, or any number of other similar groups.
Kim's presentation was interesting. I enjoyed hearing from someone who had some suggestions for working with students who self-identify as having low self-efficacy with technology and had some strategies to support those students. If you work in an IT Integrator/eLearning role and can add to this conversation, feel free to add your suggestions in the comments or let me know over Twitter.
Thank you for reading this article. If you have missed any of the articles in the EduTECH 2017 series, you can find them here.
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was due to a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
The morning tea break followed the plenary session and then it was off to the Higher Ed Leaders conference to hear Jack Hylands talking about preparing students for the economies of the future. It was a small group in this congress, however, Jack began by giving the small group the good news about statistics on the Australian Higher Education sector.
I find these stats rather interesting as they are in contrast to the often negative message we receive about Australian education in the media as a whole. Jack continued on by telling us that there is so much focus on the payment side of higher education that it distracts from other areas and that the deregulation of universities has resulted in increasing enrolment numbers year on year across a significant number of degree courses. This may sound like it is a good thing, however, the result of ongoing enrolment increases has been a lack of focus on the need to continue innovating and developing the courses and the devlivery of courses.
This is an interesting point. I have written before about my own initial teacher education and much of it (and I suspect the vast majority of degrees in most universities around the country) are delivered through a combination of lectures and workshops, with the workshops being a mixture of lecture-drive theory and actual hands-on workshop (the ration depending on the actual course/topic/tutor). There are so many degrees that do not need a lecture, wherein the main concept that needs to be learned in that lecture can be distilled into a few sentences without all of the fluff that is added in to fill out the hour long timeslot. This lack of focus on continuously innovating and improving courses needs to change.
Jack then commented that graduate unemployment is at its highest preak since the recession in the early 1990s. I personally believe this is a major problem and is the result of the removal of placement caps within university courses. As long as Commonwealth funding continues to come through for each student who enrols, then why would there be a need to cap place numbers in courses? This focus on money has resulted in a glut of teachers (except within particular subject areas and in particular geographical locations), pharmacists (my wife's professional background and in a similar situation as teaching with regard to the number of underemployed and unemployed professionals), and lawyers to name just a few. Universities continue to produce high numbers of graduates in industries and professions whom they will struggle to find full-time work.
I went looking for data to support the above and was unable to find anything (in a quick search) to support either my belief or Jack's statistics. What I did find was the Graduate Careers Australia GradStats report from December 2015 which remarked that "...figures do indicate that the longer-term prospects for those with higher education qualifications remain very positive" (p.5). This is in contrast to this article on the ABC News website which cited research by the National Institute of Labour Studies indicating that the proportion of new graduates in full time employment dropped from 56.4% to 41.7% between 2008 to 2014. Jack remarked that market-based mechanics has not worked for higher education and I would add to that that is has not worked for primary or secondary education either.
When the goal of so many stakeholders in society is go to uni and that is the measure of success, with so many employment positions requiring a degree (irrespective of the ability to actually do the job) there are two flow-on effects. Firstly, TAFE and the Trades are devalued, with massive funding cuts to TAFE over the last decade and falling numbers of trades and apprenticeships in the same time period, do not see an argument otherwise. Secondly, to stand out, you need to have a better degree. A Bachelor's degree used to indicate that you were a cut above, that you were driven, focused, able to articulate yourself well in both written and spoken forms. Now, it seems that everyone has a Bachelor degree and to stand out you need to have a Masters, if not a PhD.
The domesetic funding model that drives this increasing funding model is not sustainable over the long term in its current incarnation, yet the Australian government wants to continue telling our prospective international students that we have the best higher education system in the world. Jack indicated that this is compounded by the fact that there are a number of multi-nationals who have removed the need to hold a particular degree to attai entry-level employmentas the ability to demonstrate competency to do the core task is more important than waving a piece of paper around. I wrote somethign similar in one of my articles about my own initiall teacher education, that my results in the high school finishing exam were not indicative of the kind of tertiary student I would be just as my university results were not indicateive of the kind of teacher I would be. That said, there needs to be a balance.
The other challenge for higher education is that they are no longer necessarily the gatekeepers of knowledge, as has been their role in centuries past. With the proliferation of the inernet and knowledge being freely available as a result, the role of higher education as gatekeepers has passed. To highlight this point, Jack then quoted some statistics from The New Work Mindset published by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) around the changes in our working future.
Jack introduced us to Reggie, citing that Reggie had particular needs around the structure of his learning compared to a regular full-time student. The standardised course which applies to everybody is fine; as long as it can also be personalised on a needs basis to meet the needs of individuals. As an example of this, Jack mentioned the ME310 Design Innovation course at Stanford University.
"Students in ME310 take on real world design challenges brought forth by corporate partners. Unlike many other academic engineering projects, which require students to optimize one variable, students must design a complete system while being mindful of not only the primary function but also the usability, desirability, and societal implications. Throughout one academic year, student teams prototype and test many of their design concepts and in the end create a full proof-of-concept system that demonstrates their ideas. "
This changes the conceptualisation of a university when the focus of the university is not on the traditional lecture and tutorial model of delivery. To further highlight what can be one to reimagine that traditional model, Jack spoke next about MissionU. This university model promotes free tuition for the life of your studies, with 15% garnishing of your salary for a three year period once you are earning over fifty thousand dollars (read more here), which sounds rather similar to our funding model here in Australia. The degrees themselves are focused on high-growth industries and include industry partnerships to foster networking and, presumably, graduate employment.
There is a future, and a potentially bright future for higher education. The challenge is going to be evolving to suit the new needs of emerging skills, economies, and our societal needs.
Thank you for reading this article. If you have missed any in this EduTECH2017 series, you can find the full list here.
"Learning and Wellbeing are inextricably linked."
- Anne Johnston
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
Following Brad Loiselle's presentation in the plenary session was a panel discussion about the United Nation's and seventeen sustainable development goals. The panel consisted of Caroline McMillan (Vice-Chancellor, University of Newcastle), Pam Anders (Director of Public Engagement, Oxfam Australia), Dermot O'Gorman (CEO, WWF Australia), Anne Johnstone (Principal, Ravenswood School for Girls) and was chaired by Scott Davidson (Principal, Cabramatta Public School). It had been on the schedule in between Carol Dweck and Brad Loiselle, however, due to the atrocious weather, the flight of one of the panellists was delayed.
The panel was interesting. It very much came across as pre-scripted, however, there was some fire and passion amongst the panellists and some interesting responses. The first question was about the future for students and the discussion on that point appeared to centre around the global context, glocalisation; and the need for students to have dispositions towards continual learning and skills development as the market changes and different industries come and go and the skillsets required change over time. We are teaching students now who wll potentially see the change of the century.
The second question was how do we optimise quality education for all students. Given the context of the panel focus I took this to mean all students globally rather than just all students in Australia, and Anne Johnston's quote at the top of the article came in at this point. The task of optimising quality education for students from such disparate learning contexts as suburban Mumbai to rural China, the Pacific Islands, Europe, and of course Australia is an incredibly challenging one. We are unable to find consensus on what good education looks like and how it should be measured in Australia, I can only wonder at how that consensus would be achieved internationally.
It was noted that there are eight men in the world who own the equivalent wealth of fifty percent of the poorest of the global population, an astounding yet also unsurprising statistic. In Australia alone there is a gender-based wage gap of sixteen percent, exacerbated by the (uncited) fact that one percent of Australia's wealthiest own the wealth equivalent of seventy percent of our country's poorest.
I then heard a comment that I have not heard before, nothing about us without us. Apparently that is rather surprising. Once I Googled it to find out what it meant I realised that I had heard the sentiment before, just not expressed in that way. It was an interesting comment on the back of the Youth Brains Trust that Jane Burns spoke about in her masterclass the previous day; and one which makes a lot of sense. Pam pointed out that we need to try to avoid being the victims of change, that we need to embrace it early and in doing so guide the change positively.
The remark that talent is everywhere whilst opportunity is not struck me as interesting as that is almost the opposite of what we tell our students. There are plenty of opportunities out there, you just need to have the drive and work ethic to see them and take advantage of them is a message I have heard many times in many different parts of education. It seems an interesting juxtaposition that on one hand we try to encourage our students by telling them there are lots of opportunities and that hard work and effort are all that is needed whilst also saying that there is lots of talent but no opportunities. I suppose then it coems down to what is beign defined as an opportunity and an opportunity for what, exactly.
Sally-Ann Williams commented on twitter that Pathways programs are doing a lot of good in resolving the issue of there supposedly being a lack of opportunities. The follow up to the opportunity remark is that talent (and hard work!) should be overcome any background problems if there is equitable education access, which is, I think , the heart of the UN's goal for equitable access to a quality education for all students rrespective of their geographic or socio-economic location, which is a link back to Brad Loiselle's talk and overcoming a disadvantaged background.
This is, I believe where technology can play a role and where glocalisation can be a positive influence through the scalability of technological communication and the ability to influence change as has been seen through the development of the Earth Hour movement, the Arab Spring a few years ago and the I'll ride with you social help that came on the back of a Lindt Cafe terrorist attack to support Muslims afraid of the social backlash.
We as educators need to set our students up with the skills, knowledge and disposition to tackle social justice and inequality issues to change our world. As Kirschty Birt commented on Twitter, it is dfficult for one person to make a difference, but people connected by technology can change the world.
The panel session ended with a modified Trumpism; let's make the planet great again, and then it was time for the morning break. The panel session was interesting, but not an event that had a place in a keynote plenary, in my opinion. It would have been better suited to the individual sessions, where the audience could perhaps have been involved with some question and answer time, interrogation of responses and the research to back the statistics being mentioned.
Thank you for reading this. If you have missed any articles in the EduTECH 2017 series, you can find them here.
"My life is my message."
- Brad Loiselle
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was due to a media pass provided by the event organisers.
I had never heard of Brad Loiselle or BetterU before this presentation and the first impression was not a positive one for me. It started with something that was partially out of Brad's control; the volume on the introductory video was far too loud, almost painfully so. Brad had no control over that. What he did have control over, one would presume; given that he is the CEO and Co-Founder of the company, is whether or not to use the video in the first place. For me it was a poor choice and created a sense of distrust and cynicism immediately as it came across as unnecessarily self-aggrandizing. That the first comment Brad made was the video is not me, it is the PR amplified this.
For me it positioned him either as someone who had no control over his presentation content or as someone who is falsely self-deprecating. I realise this is rather a harsh stance to take so early in the presentation, however the introductory video and his opening sentences came across as highly discordant. I am certainly open to a dialogue with Brad if he happens to read this about the choice to use the video and the rock star-esque introduction and what he was trying to get across with that. The end result was that I switched off
Brad began by talking about his youth, growing up poor, failing at school, and leaving home at the age of sixteen is all part of his story. Over the years he came to realise that ambition and drive can get you anywhere in life, but that the quality of the stuff we build is not an indication of the kind of person we; it is the impact on other peoples lives that we are judged by. This sounds remarkably similar to a line uttered by the character Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, where the author, J.K Rowling, writes If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals. Quote Investigator found a number of historical citations for quotes of a similar nature, so the sentiment has long been around.
I was struggling to connect with Brad, purely due to the intro movie and the sense tht it created, for me, about him. His actual story, however, I found interesting. His life motto, my life is my message was taken onboard by a number of people on Twitter in different ways. Marco Cimino, for example, remarked here that that is an argument for a portfolio of learning rather than a series of final exams. Further to that, Brad was adamant that an idea can change the world and that education is central to that. There is no shortage of quotes and articles espousing this belief, that education is the key to getting ahead in life and I even believe it, but at the same time, does the type of education matter? I am not referring to old and tired public versus private school debate, but to the type of higher education you receive. Blue collarworkers are often earning far better money than white collar workers as shown in this news article. Jan Owen has commented in her presentation at FutureSchools this year that her local barista is fantastic, but hold two degrees and is completing a Masters at the moment. That is lots of debt to be making coffee.
Brad commented that online learning equalises education and that India has over one billion devices. The two carry as much causal correlation as the dvorce rate in Maine, USA, does with the per capita consumption of margarine (which is apparently r=0.992558). I would argue against the comment that online learning equalises education due to the lack of equity of access. Having a device does not mean that you have access to the internet necessarily. I have taught students who have a smartphone but it only has free text messages on it and they do not have any internet at home; the smartphone is a safety/communication tool between child and parent.
What we heard about next was some nice quotes and some marketing about what Brad's company, BetterU have done and are doing for education in India. I am not sure what has changed in the last eighteen months, however, I have noticed that I have become very cynical about marketing pieces at conferences and events. My experience with The Playground (the vendor) exhibition at Education Nation last year is the first instance that I can identify where I was genuinely angry at the blatant cold, hard sell, though my first experience with a breakout session at FutureSchools a few years ago also left me rather underwhelmed and frustrated.
I think that one of the aspects of this particular presentation which annoyed me so much is that this was supposed to be a keynote presentation. It was not. It was a marketing presentation which does not have a place in a keynote session. By all means, acknowledge the sponsors, as the Chair did, but do not give them a keynote slot. There were some presentations that were far better suited to the position of keynote. Abdul Chohan, Phillip Heath, and Lee Crockett would all have been fantastic keynote presentations.
Brad's story was interesting and his message, once you stripped out the marketing, that your life is your message is a good one. His story about overcoming a disadvantaged background is inspiring and I wonder how it would be received by students in senior high school who feel like they are destiend for dead end lives. The blatant and unapologetic marketing and self-aggrandisement was, for me, a massive turn off. If hey had given that talk at the Gala Dinner, without the promotional video at the start, that would have been fitting, given that BetterU sponsored the gala dinner and I would have perhaps been more open to what he was saying. It was a disappointing keynote and whilst I know that I am not th eonly one who feels that way, I acknowledge that there are those who found it very inspiring.
Thank you for reading if you stuck with it to the end. If you have missed any articles in this series for EduTECH 2017, you can find the other articles and the Storify's here.
"Mindsets are not all or nothing. They are not fixed, but they can be deveoped."
- Carol Dweck
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was due to a media pass provided by the event organisers
Day one of the EduTECH 2017 conference dawned grey and wet. It was not conducive to bouncing out of bed with vim and vigour. I had stayed in Sydney overnight and I headed off to ClickView HQ as I was scheduled to present a webinar with Ryan Gill about Cultures of Thinking. I have had the benefit of hearing Ryan present on Cultures of Thinking a few times now, and this webinar was just a taster of the overall concept of Cultures of Thinking, but the feedback that I have been receiving from those who watched it live and also the recording afterwards has been overwhelmingly positive. Ryan definitely excited people for the potential of cultures of thinking as a framework for encouraging thinking moves in our students. You can watch the session below.
I ended up being late to EduTECH as a result of the webinar and missed the first ten or so minutes of CarolDweck's talk. I have not heard her speak before and I have never invested the time to dive deep into the theory of growth mindset and I acknowledge that my understanding is fairly basic and superficial. Considering the topic, I would have expected a passionate talk, however, it came across to me as rather rote. Maybe it is because I have not presented anywhere near the number of times that Carol has, but I still get excited to share with people. While I was incredibly nervous leading up to the breakout sessions later in the afternoon, I was excited for them as well as it was a chance to share my little area of knowledge with people.
One of the questions that Carol asked early on in her presentation (I am only aware of this thanks to Twitter) was where did the joy of learning and tackling challenges go? I struggle with this; and perhaps it is because I do not fully comprehend the concept of growth mindset. We all, at times, get excited to be learning about something and to be challenged in an area of interest to us or in a completely new field of learning. At the same time, we all, at times, hate being challenged and having our understanding shown to be lacking; we just want to get on with whatever it is we are doing knowing that we know enough and have a solid enough understanding. I think the joy of learning and tackling challenges is still present, however, as witha great many things in life it is contextual.
Carol Dweck indicated that mindsets are dynamic, not fixed. From my limited understanding of Growth Mindset that is clearly an inherently fundamental concept that is implied in the very name and making this a statement of the obvious. Perhaps there was a method to it, however, as Carol also gave some background to growth mindset origins, speaking about the origins of the IQ test, originally developed by Alfred Binet (though modified andupdated many times since). I have admit that I missed the context here, but she remarked that Binet very much had a growth mindset and would be horrified at the way in which they were being used now. I am not sure about this; based upon a quick Google search (yes, I am well aware of the pitfalls of such a thing), it appears that the original purpose of the Binet-Simon IQ Test was to assist in identifying intellectually challenged children in France after mandatory education for children was made law in the late nineteenth century (per this article).
Carol moved on to emark that mindset is not just individual, that it can be cultural and organisational as well, affecting the trajectory of a country or company as much as it affects the life of an individual. Further to this, she remarked tht growth mindset is about empowerment and that from this, we take risks and enjoy learning. I can certainly understand and agree with the sentiment relating empowerment and a willingness to take risks. I am less comfortable, however, in recognising empoewrment as linking to an enjoyment of learning. Perhaps I am highlighting my own ignorance here and I have completely misunderstood growth mindset, as well as missing the first five to ten minutes of Carol's talk, however, I do not understand how on the one hand it can be said that the love of taking risks and enjoying challenges has disappeared, whilst linking empowerment and enjoyment of learning on the other. I just cannot understand the correlatory link.
The next phase of Carol's talk was interesting as it was about the brain activity related to different mindsets based upon work by Moser et al in 2011. What they found, or my understanding of what they found is that after connecting participants to an EEG machine to monitor brain activity and found that the mindset of participants, fixed or growth, was identifiable in brainwave activity as they completed the tasks, which Carol demonstrated using the below image.
Those with a fixed mindset apparently have less brain activity than those with growth mindset. I have to admit to not having read the Moser et al research and so I daresay that these questions are answered in the nethodology section of the paper, however, was the activity interest-neutral? What inherent biases were present in the activity? What was the size and makeup of the research population? What was the control? What statistical analysis processes were used and why those processes?
It was then remarked that there is a rise in the number of false- growth mindsets; that saying you are optimistic or perservering is not true growth mindset. This then led to an acknowledgement that we are all a mixture of fixed and growth midnsets, that mindset is fluid and dynamic not static. How does this relate to the nature of bottom-up and top-down thinking whick Jared Cooney Horvath (@JCHorvath) spoke about during his sesison later at EduTECH (and which I will review in a later article)? The impression that I have always had is that we shoud aim to be growth mindset all the time, however, Carol's comment that we are a dynamic mixture of fixed and growth mindset seems contradictory to that and, to be honest, leaves me rather confused about the whole concept.
The final aspect of growth mindset that was discussed was the issue of transfer; the notion tht teachers who have growth mindsets are not necessarily transferring this to students. Hang on, are children not some of the most inquisitive and open to learning people we know? The sponge-like, naturally inquisitive nature of children is well-known to anyone who has had a child; my nine-month old daughter is currently exploring the house, crawling from room to room, touching everything, looking in the mirror and trying to work out what that other baby is doing copying her, hitting the floor drain in the bathroom repeatedly to produce that delightful dull whump sound...and putting a great number of things in her mouth. My own experience thus far as a teacher had shown that even the most disinterested child will ask questions about something new or novel.
I wonder instead if it the nature of schooling that drills this inquisitiveness out of students, giving us students who often just want to know what the answer is or how to produce the essay correctly; they adapt to the game of school, showing a growth mindset in that adaptability, but then transition to fixed when they struggle to adapt to an unexpected change in pedagogy, such as the abolishment of grades or a move to flipped learning, or the introduction of project based learning. Or do I completely have the wrong end of the stick?
Another tenet of growth mindset is that we should not just be praising the effort or the result, but the process that leads to the result; identify their process and effective effort, not just praise effort for the sake of praising effort. This is a topic that Brian Host wrote about during the week with an article titled The Future of Education. This is a sound and beneficial pedagogical practice anyway, irrespective of growth midnset as a concept.
As part of this process, Carol recommended sharing the struggle together through opening our staff meetings with what we struggle with and normalising the struggles. I like and loathe this concept at the same time. Depending on the school culture, it could be an incredibly beneficial process, sharing struggles, strategies for addressing those struggles etc. This could turn into a professional learning process within the school, with staff banding together in common struggles of practice to benefit their own practice and the students in our classes. It could also create an incredibly tocix culture of complaint without direction or action to resolve.
The concept of not yet came up next, which is an interesting way of thinking about our students learning, conceptualising it more in line with competencies similarly to the way that VET courses are assessed. This is an interesting link to the comment that the way in which teachers and parents treat and talk about mistakes and failure plays a significant role in the way that students conceptualise and achieve a growth mindset.
The comment that stood out from this section of the talk was that you can wall with ice-cream or get back to work. This is an interesting remark in that it implies that you can't wallow with ice-cream and get on with work. I think the comment that a number of people on social media to that sounding analgous to the FAIL=First Attempt in Learning adage. I am aware that that saying is a little contrived, however, it does feed into growth mindset and is a good approach to teaching and learning.
That was the end of Carol's presentation and I have to admit to feeling underwhelmed. I have sat down for presentations before on topics tht I am not sold on the value of, and have been open to having my opinion changed. This was one of those topics, however, I did not on this occasion come away with my mind changed on the topic; I am still not sold on growth mindset. Carol's talk was interesting, however, there was nothing there for me that was an a-ha moment. I am certianly open to feedback on this topic as I was late to the presentation and my grasp is still not strong on the theory.
Thank you for reading this article in the EduTECH 2017 series. If you have missed any of the previous articles in the series, including the storify, you can find them here.
"Apps now let us manage mental health and the gives clinicians tools to help individuals"
- Jane Burns
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was througha media pass provided by the organisers.
The afternoon session of a conference can often be a challenge, as the combinatin of lunch, sitting down, and a warm room can be quite soporific. I was ok with the first part of the session, as it was active and in our table groups, were workign on developing our toolbox of tools and strategies for helping students with mental health challenges. My table spent some time talking about the framework around which we were going to base the toolbox and decided upon the Flourish model used by Geelong Grammar School which is itself an adaptation of the PERMA model. We went through our notes from the day and added different tools into relevant sections of the framework that we had mapped out until we had a number of options within each component.
After this activity, the discussion moved to Participatory Design and the research that underpins it in the mental health space. Jane spoke about her work with Young and Well and spoke abuot the process they went through in setting up a Youth Brains Trust. Each year for five years they recruited five young people from a diverse background of gender, age, heritage, and other considerations; young people who would not ordinarily be considered bright and shiny students to contribute to discussions on mental health. As part of that process, the Youth Brains Trust identified and recommended that a separte First Nations Youth Council be set up to advise on the same from an Indigenous peoples perspective.
The participatory design process is long, however, is seems as if it would be a fantastic tool to gain consensus across multiple stakeholder groups and individuals through an iterative process of discussion, questioning and agreement over the goal and purpose before talking about the specific processes and strategies.
The conversation again turned to apps and we looked at the MARS App Rating Scale which was developed by the Queensland University of Technology in conjunction with Young and Well. It was an interesting process as we were asked to go through and rate an app using the MARS process. Many people simply went through and rated the Facebook app or YouTube and they scored highly throughout the various categories. I rated an app that I use everynight, called Sleep Cycle which analyses your sleep patterns based on either the accelerometer or the microhphone (depending which setting you choose) to recognise your sleep cycle. I have been using it for about four years now yet it did not rate highly. So there are some flaws it would appear. That process and discussion of the apps that different people rated and how they fared took us through tot he afternoon break.
The final session of the day was where I really started to struggle with focus. We were looking at Project Synergy and the discussion was around the impending explosion in the need for digital mental health solutions in an increasingly digital society. There are, as we discussed in the previous session, a range of digital solutions currently available that are valuable tools for clinicians to recommend to clients to assist in managing mental health concerns.
Jane then spoke about the Review of Mental Health Services report which was published in December 2014. Jane spoke about how that report helped drive community partnerships between service providers, local communities, Government bodies and medical practitioners.
The final component of the day was analysing a website from a user perspective to give feedback on what could be improved, what design elements might cause issues for different users (i.e. students, compared to teachers compared to different aged or cultural backgrounds) and how the site could be modified to personalise it. The conversation was around how personalised it could be without logging in and whether different groups would want to identify themselves and share their information by logging in. It is these sorts of services and online chat services that have changed the landscape of digital health and the conversation for the remainder of the session focused on that.
That was the end of the masterclass day. For me, Jane's masterclass was the most important masterclass on offer (though of course that is personal perspective) and it was a very interesting and also a useful and practical session. I now feel better equipped to suport students with mental health issues, I still do not feel properly equipped, just better equipped.
That is the end of the Masterclass day review series. I still have reviews for the conference itself to write and will continue to post those over the coming days. If you have missed any of the storify's or articles from this EduTECH 2017 series, you can find those here. Don't forget that if you or a loved on need support there are lots of options such as Beyond Blue, LifeLine, Black Dog Institute, Mind Blank, and Headspace, among many others. This is an important conversation that we need to have as a society. Engage in the online conversation through twitter, Jane is @JaneBurns and there are a range of hashtags on Twitter such as #mentalhealth, #mentalhealthawareness and many others.
"Youth experimenting with new things as a behavioural pattern has not changed since the 1960s. What they are experimenting with is the thing that has changed."
- Jane Burns
My attendance at EduTECH 2017 is through a media pass provided by the organisers.
After the morning break, we resumed our conversation around mental health and wellbeing, chatting about the societal from non-technology driven to highly technology-driven, with lives now revolving around social calendars managed on FaceBook ro Google, and the need to respond to social media immediately, the keyboard warrior attitude, and the proliferation of misinformation and poor research by the ability to very simply share it. There is potential for incredible levels of support for those who need it but do not have easy access to it for one reason or another, however, there is also the potential for increased levels of bullying; because rather than simply ocurring in the playground or on the bus to and from school it can continue all day and through the night due to social media access.
That is not the only downside to the technology-driven society. Increased access to technology has resulted in poor sleep hygiene, with young people going to bed later, and sleeping poorly as a result of having their phone in their hand or under the pillow. It is setting up an addiction that is affecting our students and changing the way they get their dopamine highs. When stressed, rather than turning to alcohol, there are those who now turn to their phone and the internet.
The discussion turned to the classroom and the point was made that if a student has no formal diagnosis, then no additional fudning for support for that student is available. The process to get that diagnosis can be long and arduous for the family and the papework to then submit the details to get the support is also a long and frustrating process. Community links can help in this area. One person related about inviting a mental health support organisation, Headspace, into their school as students were not going out to the organisation. The have someone in the school on a regular basis and that person works with self-referred students and is able to make the link back to home where appropriate. It means that even if the parents are proving to be a roadblock and are taking te attitude that there isnothign wrong with their child, the child can self-refer and get the help they need.
The use of technology came up and the statistic is that 95% of Australian youth (16-24) are online everyday for two to four hours a day, and about twenty percent of those are online for five or more hours a day. It is not necessarily the amount of technology use, screentime if you will, that is an issue. The purpose of the screentime is a highly contextual issue.
Technology can provide hope to families struggling to deal with disability in the household. A student who cannot communicate verbally has the option of communicating through technology such as a tablet which they can type into and communicate with. It also allows families separated by distance to stay in touch. My wife and I regularly FaceTime my parents who live fours away so that they can see their granddaughter and she can hear their voices and see their faces. At nine months old, this means that when we do get to see them in person, they are not complete strangers. There is so many rich and meaningful uses of technology that the question of how much is too much is far deeper and more complex than simply the amount of time spent using technology.
One of the main challenges in schoolmental health is help seeking, and engagement with mental health and this is where the right care at the right time attitude to care comes in and then the challenge is the workforce. There are not enough people with expertise and training in dealing with mental health issues on schools.
It was at this point that we were all evacuated from the building. There was the automated announcement over the PA and we all casually filed outside, congregating about two or three meters outside the main door of the ground floow as it was raining. It is interesting that despite all being educators and having, naturally, been through many evacuation drills in at schools, there was absolutely no urgency or hurry at all. I saw many people casually picking up all of their belongings and slowly making their way out and down the escalators. The workers who were putting up signage of maps of the EduTECH conference and where different rooms were did not even go that far; they kept working. We were only outside for about ten minutes and then it was back in with no explanation of what had happened. An interesting interlude to the morning.
Jane drew upon a Malcom Turnbull quote from April 2016 (which I have not been able to find online) which was that the most important resource in Australia is not underground but inside the heads of our people. This is an interesting perspective given the attitude that we see in the media from our policiticans around mineral resources versus education and the legislation that is enacted.
The discussion turned to a more practical line of thought, and we were asked to brainstorm various tools and strategies that we already knew of to support mental health, which were then shared around the room. The VIA Character Strengths survey came up a few times. This is apparently a tool for self-assessment of character traits. There were a few people who indicated that their school runs a subject called health, which is separate from PDHPE, wherein students receive extra time for physical movement. This is important as there is a body of research that find a link between physical activity and mental health (such as here, here, and here). I also remember a TV ad from (I think) the early 1990s which had a tagline along the lines of kids who play sport do better in school and the clip was of a female gymnast running towards camera, jumping off a trampoline, doing a twist or something and then landing (now in her school uniform) in her chair in class with a huge smile on her face.
We then heard about a tool called High Res which is aimed at veterans, however, is based on cognitive behaviour therapy and so could be adaped for students' use.
The next resource we heard about was Secret Agent Society which is aimed at primary school students. It was originally developed to teach students with social and emotional difficulties how to recognise emotions in themselves and others, express their feelings in appropriate ways along with a range of other social skills. Next, we heard about Seven Habits of Mind and The Brave Program. The Brave program is not one that I had heard of before, however, it is an online tool that allows students to get support and some strategies for dealing with anxiety, based on cognitive behaviour therapy. ReachOut (@Reachout_Aus) is a highly useful website with a range of tools that can help students manage and understand mental health issues.
One strategy that was discussed to increase awareness and understanding of tools for managing mental health was to turn it into a design task. Ask students to analyse mental health websites and what works well, what does not work well on that website. It turns it into a design task, however, as part of that, they will take in content and tools that are listed as part of the analysis process.
Jane then quoted Jackie Crowe who said that the bar is set too low for what is acceptable. There is not an expectation of high quality care, despite the crying need for it.
This lack of available support has driven the development of apps that are available to help fill in the gap. The app scene was what we focused on next and the first app discussed was the Recharge Sleep app which offers a six week program to help bring your sleep hygiene back to healthy standards. ReachOut Breath App focuses on the physiological impacts of stress and offers simple practical exercises to manage those signs and bring them back to healthy levels and slowly bring your stress back to manegable levels. Music eScape is hunged on the fact that there is no stigma around music as therapy whatsoever. It creates a mood map of your music library based upon the beat cadence and will help you to change your mood through physiological and psychological responses to music. The Check In App by Beyond Blue was developed to help provide building blocks for how you can start a mental health conversation with a friend and it provides links to professional support.
Break Up Shake Up is an app designed to help young people move on after a relationship break up. As a teenager, a relationship ending is the end of the world. This helps by providing strategies to help let go and move on. ReachOut also offers The Toolbox; a site that helps you to determine your mental health goals and then suggests a range of apps for you to select from that are appropriate to achieving those goals.
The morning started our rather depressing, talking about the statistics around youth mental health, which are quite horrific, but this session I feel was quite positive and gave us some practical tools that we can use and suggest for students that we know are dealing with mental health issues in our own lives.
We moved out to lunch at this pont, so I will end this article here. Thank you for reading and if you have any of the storify's or articles from this EduTECH 2017 series, you can find those here. Don't forget that if you or a loved on need support there are lots of options such as Beyond Blue, LifeLine, Black Dog Institute, Mind Blank, and Headspace, among many others. This is an important conversation that we need to have as a society. Engage in the online conversation through twitter, Jane is @JaneBurns and there are a range of hashtags on Twitter such as #mentalhealth, #mentalhealthawareness and many others.
"A theoretical model or framework, no matter how amazing, is usless unless you can put it into practice."
- Jane Burns
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was through a media pass provided by the event organisers.
There were a number of masterclass to choose from (see my preview of Masterclass day here) and for me, Jane Burns' masterclass around digital wellbeing was the one that stood out as being genuinely important, not just for education, but socially as well. The day did not, however, start out particulalry pleasantly.
I did eventually make it to EduTECH and found that I was with around thirty or so other delegates to hear Jane speak about digital wellbeing. Overall, the day was very interesting. The statistics were largely depressing, however, not surprising; and we were provided with a range of options, tools and strategies for workign with students to deal with mental health and wellbeing through digital tools.
Jane was upfront in that she did not want to spend the whole day talking, and so after introducing the PERMA model to us, she asked us to brainstorm about words, ideas, emojis that come to mind for each of the keywords that make up PERMA.
This was a very interesting excercise and the ideas that the group I was with were quite varied.
The PERMA model, we were told, was developed by Martin Seligman (watch a TED Talk he delivered on the concept here) and provides a way of thinking about issues that arise. as we went around the room, sharing our ideas on each of the keywords in PERMA, an underlying theme emerged; generally, there seemed to be a theme that accountability, when coupled with appropriate support, created an environment where mental health was more achievable consistently. However, Jane pointed out that PERMA is a theoretical framework and that irrespective of how good/nice any theoretical framework is, unless it can be put into practice than it is useless.
Jane then moved onto Paula Robinsons's Mental Fitness framework, which was something that I had not heard before. Jane spoke about the language around mental health and that rather than mental illness we should talk about mental health as mental illness carries a rather negative connotation and also carriess with it some help-negation history as well, wherein the more that you need help, the less likely yo uare to seek help. The conversation then shifted to considering what has changed in society that has made suicide such a prevalent option. One of the statistics that was spoken about was that one in ten students ina Year Twelve class have attempted suicide. When I look back at my classes from the last couple of years and consider that statistically, if they were in Year Twelve now, that three of them would have attempted to take their own life, that is a rather horrifying thought. You can read some statistics about youth mental health on the Beyond Blue page here. The discussion that the group was having was all predicated on the stereotype of young white male, the statistics for at-risk groups such as the Indigenous, LGBTQ, rural/remote populations are even higher.
Jane commented that having mental health issues is still seen, by and large, as a weakness. THis is despite widespread acceptness of the validity of mental health issues. Jane was asked why this is and she replied that we do not know, there are so many factors, not least of which is the historical attitudes of buck up and men don't cry that completely decry mental health as being valid. The below video has done the rounds on social media recently and it applies the language that we use about mentla health to physical health. I challenge you to really watch and listen and consider the langauge that you use and how you conceptualisemental health issues. It is quite confronting. I actually scrolled past it about halfway through the video the first time I saw it (and it is not a long video) because it was uncomfortable to watch, highlighting the inadequacy of our attitude towards this significant problem.
One of the challenges aroud mental health that Jane spoke about is help-negation theory because there is a body of research that indicates early intervention and helps significantly increases the chances of recovery. You wouldn't delay the treatment of cancer by saying I can deal with this myself so why would you delay seeking help for something else that can severly cripple or even kill you? A stark thought, but true. The attitudes of society and individuals around mental health have changed, there is more acceptance of mental health as a valid concern, however, our actions around mental health have not necessarily changed; people still do not seek help often until very late and people still receive disparaging remarks if they open up about having mental helth issues.
Jane noted that we have reached a point of saturation around awareness. The statistics have changed as awareness has increased, hwever, therewe are now at a opint where we won't see a further change, a reduction in suicide numbers for example without a change in actions. It is our actions which now need to change. Research like the Growing Up Queer report highlight that there is still a sgnificant problem with discrimination and bullying around mentla health; our actions need to change.
In 2009 over nine thousand youths (16-24 years old) were admitted to hospital for injuries resulting in self-harm.Women are admitted at two and a half times the normal rate, and Indigenous youth at five times the normal rate. If these kinds of statistics were applied to motor vehicle deaths, there would be an outrage socially, politically, and across the media, however, mental health gets a modicum of media airtime.
The conversation changed to talking about sleep hygiene and the role that technology can play in supporting mental health needs at odd hours during the night, however, I will cover that in the next article.
Thank you for reading through this, and don't forget that if you or a loved on need support there are lots of options such as Beyond Blue, LifeLine, Black Dog Institute, Mind Blank, and Headspace, among many others. This is an important conversation that we need to have as a society. Engage in the online conversation through twitter, Jane is @JaneBurns and there are a range of hashtags on Twitter such as #mentalhealth, #mentalhealthawareness and many others.
If you have missed any of the articles in this series on EduTECH 2017, you can find them here.
The storifys of the Masterclass day can be found below: