Welcome back for this, the final article in my review of FutureSchools 2016. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. I had looked at the agenda for the afternoon session and was not particularly excited by what I saw and did consider leaving early, but made the decision to stay and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the final session and how engaging both Marissa Peters and Jim Sill were.
Marissa Peters is an ICT Specialist from St John’s Primary School in East Frankston, Victoria. Marissa’s presentation title of The Dreams You Dream! The Use of Virtual Reality in the Classroom did not grab my interest as virtual reality (VR) is not something that is on my radar for use in the classroom. Marissa opened by commenting that the world of reality is limited, whereas our imaginations are boundless and that VR takes our five senses and extends them further.
Marissa spoke about Google Cardboard, which I had previously heard of, but never actually known what it was or how it worked. It seems like it has some potential for use in the classroom, but requires smartphones, which, when schools are pushing towards tables, is mildly annoying. That said, I am not sure that it would be comfortably usable with a tablet.
Marissa also spoke about how they let the students play in order to become comfortable with the concept of VR, with titles including Minecraft, Titans of Space, Photosphere, Alice and Google Expeditions. Marissa identified that as part of their entry into the VR space, her and her students became consumers rather than creators, which is difficult to change at this point in time. There are some tools out there to allow students to become creators of content, such as Unity 3D.
It was acknowledged that VR takes significant time to embed in place, and to train students and staff in obtaining the most benefit from the experiences, rather than it simply being an interesting gimmick. I can certainly see a place for Google Expeditions in the classroom, however, once again, when we are asking our students to bring tablets into class, it is difficult to turn around and ask that they also bring phones in, particularly in a primary school context.
Marissa closed with a quote attributed to Thomas Edison and posited that as Educators, it should be a motto for us to guide as and remind us to push through failures.
Jim Sill (@MisterSill), Director of Global Development with EdTech Team and his title of The Wild and Reckless World of Creativity was rather ambiguous, and he opened by showing us a clip from Madonna’s 1984 music video for her single Material Girl, telling us that we now all lived in a Twitter world, with the Twitter culture permeating most facets and most societies in the world.Personally, I am a fan of Twitter as a professional development tool and as a tool for learning, and Jim described getting the best use from Twitter as taking a cup, dipping it in a river and having a drink from the cup. “You don’t try and capture the whole river” Jim reminded us, and the admonishment to not worry about keeping up with all of Twitter, which some try to do, or feel that they should be doing, is a useful one, particularly for those new to Twitter.
Jim continued by talking about selfies, selcas (the Korean term for selfie), the toilet selfie (“It does not matter how well dressed you are, you are still taking a photo in the room where you poop!”) and categorised these as a form of self-branding and self-identification which form part of the user’s online footprint. As a side note, I have recently heard digital footprints being referred to instead as digital tattoos, which I think is an interesting and important distinction. The below video by Juan Enriquez speaks to this concept and is well worth watching.
Jim spoke about how YouTube is essentially a hook farm full of ways for teachers to capture students’ interest in a topic, how Instagram has changed our relationships with food, with tourism and with each other and how GoPro makes everything look awesome. Jim commented that many teachers do not try new ideas, new technologies, new pedagogies due to a fear of failure, whether as a result of having been figuratively burnt in the past, or a lack of support from colleagues, they are paralysed by fear, and that fear is the big killer of new ideas and products.
Jim asked us to consider what kind of world we live in and the types of tools that we use to activate and access our students, reminding us that our world, outside the bubble of education and the classroom, does not have a safety net. He invoked Prensky’s notion of the digital native and digital immigrant, not the first time Prensky had been referenced during the conference, and how it is an old concept (the paper linked above was published in 2001) yet it is still used today. Jim told us how because of when he was born, he was a bicycle native. He was born in a time when bicycles were commonplace and everyone had one, yet, they were once considered to be “…diabolical devices of the demon of darkness…full of guile and deceit.”
Jim reminded us that we all started with training wheels on our bicycles, and that the move towards two-wheeled freedom was a gradual one, guided by our elders. In the same way, we should be training our children and our students in how to truly use technology. Jim quoted Mike Welsch as having said that incoming students in his college courses were showing only a superficial familiarity with digital tools. The term digital native should not be used in anything but the general time-frame sense, but that the term digital naives is an accurate descriptor for many students in their ability to meaningfully use digital tools.
We were shown a portion of a 360 video that Jim had taken while travelling by rickshaw in Mumbai, and he spoke about how the use of videos such as this provided options for viewer choice narratives as the viewer chose what to watch, and while this could be a powerful tool, we need to keep asking the question is this relevant or useful to our teaching and learning?
Jim echoed the point that had been made a number of times earlier int he conference that all teachers need to start somewhere on the SAMR model, and that the innovators and early adopters can create a bridge from substitution and augmentation across to modification and redefinition to assist those teachers who are slower to take up technology and assist the way they integrate technology in their teaching.
“Your first few ideas usually suck” we were told, and that the zoom-in metacognitive strategy can help us move beyond the first ideas. Jim said that we should launch early and iterate regularly, with an interesting quote attributed to Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn:
I look back at the very first flipped learning videos I created and I cringe. They are horrible. Dry, slow, stilted, and most definitely uninteresting. Yet they were a starting point, and they have helped me to create better videos. Teachers need to maintain the beginner’s mindset, Jim continued, and that for some reason, education is always expected to be polished, which is unrealistic as it is not. As teachers, we regularly make mistakes, get our words mixed up, do not quite finish our explanations, forget to hand out enough materials for science and any number of other commonplace errors that are easy to make when you are managing a room of thirty very different students. He encouraged us to embrace our mistakes, which is advice that Joel Speranza gave us in relation to flipped learning video creation and, quoting Goethe, that doubt grows with knowledge.
Jim closed with a few thoughts. As teachers, we live in a world of creative minds and we need to be careful with those minds, lest we stamp out the creativity, whilst encouraging our students to remain young and not become a statistic that we hear about in the news. Embrace creativity and put a saddle on it and have a go; be open with stories of success and of failure to guide our students so they can learn from our mistakes and our good choices and that providing opportunities for our students to share their ideas globally can create powerful connections and turn students into teachers.
Jim’s presentation was energetic and engaging, an excellent speaker to close out the conference with on a Friday afternoon and I am glad that I stayed for both his and Marissa’s sessions. The conference overall was definitely worthwhile attending in my opinion. I had some valuable conversations with a number of people, was able to finally meet some educators that I had been interacting with via Twitter for a while and strengthen connections with others. I am unsure whether I will attend FutureSchools next year, purely from the perspective of it moving to Melbourne and EduTech moving to Sydney.
I hope that you have found some benefit from reading through these review articles, I know that writing them has been a useful process for consolidating my own learnings. As always, thank you for reading.
If you have missed any articles in this review series, please click here to see the full list.
“Art is the overflow of emotion into action.”
– Attributed to Brian Raif
As my regular readers would be aware, I have been utilising a short burst of creative writing, called quick writing to provide my students a more engaging way of practicing their typing skills. The students have been overwhelmingly enjoying the time. I have been trying to find a way to make it a more rigorous learning opportunity and to encourage them to improve their creative writing as well as their typing.
I had begun to provide four images as options, to allow for those students who did not connect with the initial image that was provided, and this has helped a number of students engage with the process and enable them to write more than they had previously, and those students whom are more advanced writers have an opportunity to extend themselves, through the challenge of connecting two or more of the images. What I have been noticing with the writing that students have been doing is that although they are writing at length, their output is quite surface-level, with very little detail enabling the reader to visualise the scene they are writing about.
The engagement of the students has created a situation where I have been able to sit and join them in completing some creative writing, something which I have not done in a great while, and have missed. Yesterday I listened to a few of the students read their writing out, as I have been doing, and decided to model to them what I meant when I have been asking them to provide more detail in their writing, and read out a few paragraphs of what I had written.
Having done so, I asked the class if they could visualise the scene in their heads, and then we had a discussion about the use of language to paint a picture for the reader, and how the use of language can play a role in determining the interest level of the reader. The challenge was then put back onto the students to revise their writing, to use their language to paint a picture of the scene and the characters they were describing.
For a number of them, it was a light bulb moment, and they immediately dove back into their writing to improve it, and I hope that this segue will pay off in the long run with higher quality writing. The other challenge I laid down for them was to remove the boring words, such as said with more interesting vocabulary, and we had a brief discussion about how to find more interesting vocabulary.
Thank you for reading, as always, and I would like to hear from anyone about how you have encouraged students to make their writing more interesting and more visual, while removing the boring words.
“I believe arts education in music, theatre, dance, and the visual arts is one of the most creative ways we have to find the gold that is buried just beneath the surface. They (children) have an enthusiasm for life a spark of creativity, and vivid imaginations that need training – training that prepares them to become confident young men and women.”
– Richard W. Riley, Former US Secretary of Education
Wikipedia describes the origins of Lip Sync Battle as a spin off from a segment on the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Show, based off an idea hatched initially by Stephen Merchant , and which Jimmy Fallon then developed into a regular segment wherein himself and one or two celebrities, depending on the night, would lip sync two songs each, without knowing the sings that the other had chosen, with the crowd determining who ‘won’ the lip sync battle.
The segment was developed into a weekly TV show in its own right, and has been quite popular in many countries where it has aired. I have been watching it and wishing that I had a class of my own so that I could bring Lip Sync Battle into the class, as there are a number of skills within Lip Sync Battle that make it a useful alternative vehicle for teaching particular skills and concepts as well as improving students’ self-efficacy.
The competitors, as they are lip syncing, express the emotion and energy of the song through their body language, facial expressions and their energy, which are all skills taught through the creative arts strand of drama. Competitors also need strong resilience and self-efficacy to put themselves up in front of peers and lip sync, which are both key characteristics for getting through life in modern society. There are music skills involved, as the competitor needs to know the lyrics and timing of the song in order to successfully and realistically lip sync it, as well as have an understanding of the timbre of the music as that will influence their body language and facial expressions.
A conversation with one of my colleagues last week has created a situation where we will be running a Lip Sync Battle for our Stage Three students in a range of categories; Battle of the Sexes (boys v girls), Individual Championship, Age Before Wisdom (Year Five v Year Six), and the option for a Team Event if there is sufficient interest. I would also like to see a Teacher Competition but I am not sure whether that will happen or not.
We showed the below trailer to Stage Three students on Friday (July 31) to generate some interest, with the promise that more information would be forthcoming. Rather than have every battle as a live version, the first round of battles will be pre-recorded videos that have been submitted.
All performances will be recorded, and if students give their permission and have publishing permissions, then their video will be uploaded to YouTube. I will utilise the hashtag #PCPSLipSyncBattle on any videos or tweets that I make for this competition. I would love to hear from you if you are doing something similar with your class, or even across the Stage group or the school, what the reaction has been from students and teachers and the wins and difficulties you have faced.