Monday, 31 July 2017

Why are teachers passively waiting to be automated?

Did this title capture your attention?
It was meant to be provocative and is actually the opposite message from a previous blog post I wrote (Schools will always be needed no matter how intuitive technology may become!).
However, some futurists believe the role of the teacher will be made obsolete through technological innovation. Take for example Sugata Mitra whose 2013 TedTalk  won him $1 million prize, he stated:
“Schools as we know them are obsolete because we no longer need traditional teachers.”
He envisions the classroom as cloud-based and student-driven as his graphic below portrays:

Michael Godsey, teacher and writer relates:
“The increasingly popular belief that human instructors must cede to computers as the font of knowledge. That's a profound shift that educators have barely begun to contemplate.”
“We're at the point where the Internet pretty much supplies everything we need. My daughter gets some help from her teachers, but basically everything she learns — from math to band — she can get from her computer better than her teachers.”
Andy Hines (Assistant Professor University of Houston) gives the best advice when he tells us to:

He believes any job of the future that focuses on personal services, relationships and associated people skills coupled with creativity and critical systems thinking is well placed.
Jared Weiner from the Future Hunters, believes the future will be about new methods of individualized learning. He states that the ability to memorise, retain and apply information will not be enough. Knowing how to learn and the ability to apply novel thinking to never-seen-before challenges will be most useful.
We can now forecast the changing role of the teacher as a shift from imparting core knowledge and skills to focusing on the development of learners’ relational social skills through problem based learning while helping them develop adaptive higher order thinking skills.
Claire A. Nelson, futurist and Sustainability Engineer, believes we must all be ready to:              
She states job security in the future will depend on our ability to learn to learn and the capacity to reinvent ourselves – again, and again and again.
Thomas Frey, well known Futurist speaker from the DaVinci Institute, offers a video about preparing for over 160 jobs that don’t exist yet and 14 hot new skills to be future ready. Among his list of 14 skills there are some I believe teachers need to develop and hone for their future adaptability:
Transitionists – the ability to be open-minded and continue to make transitions
Expansionists - a talent for adapting along with a changing environment
Optimisers – the skill and persistence to tweak your practice to achieve better results
Ethicists – people who can ask the tough questions and standards to apply moral decency to increasingly complex situations
And finally, we all need to be Legacists, that is, be passionate about what the future in education holds and be skilled enough to leave a legacy.
But, back to the original provocation:
Will innovations replace teachers?
From a scan of the available literature the answer at this stage is:
Innovations may automate teacher expertise by providing core discipline knowledge through on-line personalized curriculum content. However, this shift will actually allow expert teachers to identify and address students’ individual learning needs more efficiently and effectively.
In Teaching in the Machine Age (Thomas Arnett, Christensen Institute, 2016 ) relates it is envisaged that learners will have three types of teachers – computers, non-experts, and expert teachers:

Rather than seeing technological progress as a threat, teachers and education leaders should take advantage of the many ways technology can enhance their work. Computers, non-experts, and expert teachers each have comparative advantages that complement one another. Computers are ideal for targeting students’ basic content and skill gaps and providing teachers with real-time assessment data. Non-experts, such as paraprofessionals and novice teachers, provide the human touch needed for supervising and motivating students and troubleshooting non-academic learning difficulties. Expert teachers carry out sophisticated teaching tasks, including developing new instructional approaches, diagnosing and addressing students’ non-academic learning difficulties, providing feedback on oral and written communication, fostering an achievement-oriented classroom culture, and talking with parents about students’ individual education plans.
I will finish on a positive quote:
Great teachers are the most valuable resource in our education system. And expert teachers’ work is unlikely to be reduced to standardized procedures or automated algorithms anytime soon. 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Curriculum readiness

A curriculum for future readiness
According to future forecasters KnowledgeWorks, by 2040 most work will have the following characteristics:

  • ·      Technology and globalisation will result in market-driven work that will be highly problem-driven, ambiguous and volatile;

  • ·      Work will have a culture of constant improvement and learning driven by analytics providing frequent data measurement and quick feedback;

  • ·      Work will be modulated, that is, broken down into discrete parts and will need extensive coordination, synthesis and high-level goals to be recombined;

  • ·      Work will be grounded in productive relationships (collaborative, team-driven, collegial, inclusive) determining success and the working culture;

  • ·      Adaptability is key – learn, re-learn, and follow personal passions that will blur the lines between work and personal lives.

(Source: KnowledgeWorks Forecast 4.0 The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out)

 The key characteristics I glean from this predictive forecast are:

 If we design our future focused curriculum around the 2040 work characteristics what would this look like?
What approaches to teaching and learning should we be embracing in order to ensure our students are ready for the future workforce?
Let’s take the 2040 work characteristics and translate it into curriculum readiness:

What human skills should we be developing?
Now, let’s take the 2040 human characteristics and translate it into curriculum readiness: 

So, how ready is your future focused curriculum?

Friday, 26 May 2017

Keeping one's finger on the pulse of school culture

Keeping one’s finger on the pulse of school culture

 It is that time of year when it is important to check the pulse of the school.
Are students safe and happy?
Is the staff safe and happy?
Are parents happy with the level of education their child is receiving?
It is a bold move by any school leadership team to gather this data but it is also the only way to stay attuned to the school climate and to keep improving.
Firstly, our Year 8 students carried out a student pulse survey like a learning walk and surveyed a random sample of four students per class asking them:

The Year 8 students then analysed the data and made assumptions and recommendations to be reported back to teaching teams for consideration.
Secondly, the employee pulse survey was designed to take a snapshot of school climate by asking all staff the following:
The data is then analysed for trends, reported back to all employees and next steps for improvement developed and actioned over time.
Finally, the parent pulse survey has a similar intention, that is, to capture the current school climate from parents’ perspective around a variety of topics. See a snap shot of the survey below that had 27 items/questions:

Again, the data is analysed for trends and next steps for improvement.
Together the three pulse surveys provide us with rich data to quickly form a perspective on our school culture. Most importantly it allows us to celebrate what is working well and to pin point areas for improvement.

Do you have a finger on the pulse of your school?

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The power of using students to teach digital safety

The power of using students to 
teach digital safety

In a previous blog post, The worry of social media, I talked about my interest in using student voice to help students and parents become informed about social media and more importantly how to be safe on social media.
Consequently I engaged with a small group of Year 8 students and over a period of 6 months we set out to fulfil this mission.
We journeyed through the following stages:
·      Brainstormed what we knew, what we thought we knew and what we needed to find out
·      Researched the topic of social media in general and checked our own knowledge for clarity
·      Perused strategies and tools that others have used
·      Debated and decided on a specific tool
·      Storyboarded the video screens
·      Filmed a number of versions
·      Produced the final cut
The girls borrowed the THINK tool from the ThinkUKnow website in the United Kingdom see below:
This site has a wealth of information for parents and schools.

I particularly like their open-ended questions for students to consider:
1.    What privacy settings do you use on social media?
2.   How can you help protect your friends’ privacy online?
3.   If you see someone post something online which violates someone else’s privacy, what should you do? Is it ok to forward it if it’s really funny?
4.   What do you think about people who post private things in an attempt to get a lot of ‘likes’ or ‘up-votes’?
5.   Have you ever felt embarrassed about something you posted when you were younger?
6.   When joining a site or downloading an app, how do you decide if they are taking good care of your privacy?
7.   Where can you learn more about digital privacy?
8.   Parents sometimes buy things online. How do they know their credit card information is safe?

In New Zealand we have Netsafe, an excellent site for digital citizenship and resources for parents and schools.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Karen Spencer, Director of Education at Netsafe, at the ISNZ conference last week. A main takeaway for me was:
When a student misuses technology on social media do not ban the use of a device; focus on the behaviour not the tool; support and guide them around correct behaviour instead.
I am very proud to officially release the student video from SHS on keeping safe using social media. We plan to use the video as a teaching tool for both our students and our parents.

Please take the time to watch their amazing efforts:

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Smackdowns: Powerful professional learning

Powerful professional learning

According to blogger a punch of professional development, smackdowns are:
… Small punches of information where tips, trick, ideas and wonderings are shared. In many cases a Google Presentation is set up and people are invited to create a slide prior to the event, when the event occurs participants must be prepared to get up in front of the audience and share their slide/knowledge.

 Another source states:
A "Smackdown," during which any willing participant takes the floor for 30 seconds to share an idea, tool, or tip with the crowd. There's typically music, laughing, and cheering as folks try to condense their learning into such a small time frame.  (Scherer, 2016)
I can attest to the notion of laughing and cheering when using this ingenious professional learning activity. Let me explain. Last week our e-learning team leader initiated a smackdown as part of our professional learning day. The email invite read:

A small number of teachers obliged by adding a slide and then a few days later another invite from our e-learning team leader read:

 This email invite convinced the more “humble” teachers and many more slides were added.
In my experience teachers are not only humble but they are also nervous to share their expertise, hence the laughing as they begin their presentation with some form of nervous admission. Our time limit was 2 minutes so it didn’t seem too daunting.
The following is a sample of the GEMS that were shared:

Pocket for curating article links

 A year 6 teacher developed this well-being survey for her students:

Coding in the preschool:

 Online learning in science

 Making a lithophane

Word Art for design

Animales for language development

Using twitter for professional learning

After each teacher shared their GEM we all clapped and offered thanks and appreciation for these new insights.
This half hour of professional learning was exceptionally valuable for the following reasons:
·      It highlighted the fact that all teachers were experts
·      The tools were already considered valuable for learners therefore safe to apply
·      The tools were shared across the whole school – preschool through to year 8
·      The tools were all shared within a specific, authentic learning context
·      The presentations often triggered questions and rich conversation
·      It builds community by reinforcing our culture of relational trust and showing gratitude to each other
·      It was empowering for all teachers
·      We instantly came away with a new tool to enhance learning
·      It is low cost

For the above reasons, I am convinced smackdowns should be a valued and well-utilised form of teacher professional learning in all schools.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

How pedagogy should underpin the innovation of powerful technologies

How pedagogy should underpin the innovation of powerful technologies

We have learnt that introducing a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy can be fraught with controversy unless it is executed through a robust consultation process, transparency at all levels and most importantly being grounded in how the device will enhance learning. The clear articulation and shared understanding of how the device will impact learning positively, what pedagogy will underpin its use and the agreed safety around use is an important first step. In fact the introduction of any new technology should be underpinned by this process.

In his article Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, Gregory Firn commented:

Cutting-edge technologies like virtual reality, 3D printing and the “Internet of Things” have reached the classroom. While these technologies already have potential to enrich STEM concepts, they often originate from the consumer world and risk standing alone in maker spaces and classroom workshops.

I agree with Firn and in the age of the introduction of modern learning environments/innovative learning environments/flexible learning spaces we are acutely aware that the effective pedagogy that underpins learning, no matter the learning space, must be clearly articulated, shared and consistently applied across the school before utilising these types of future focused spaces.

As an example, acquiring a 3D printer needs to begin with the same question:

How will this new technology enhance learning?

Introducing a 3D printer into existing mental models and practices of teaching and learning may result in usage within a particular learning environment, such as a Maker Space, but only as an end tool to produce an item.

If, however, the 3D printer is integral to carrying out an authentic inquiry based on a real world need, utilising rich task pedagogy and developing transdisciplinary knowledge and skills, then its introduction will enhance learning.

I saw a wonderful example of this last term whereby the year 7 students undertook a unit of inquiry focused on developing an innovation to aid an adult who was a tetraplegic.

The teachers utilised a powerful combination of practice:

inquiry based pedagogy

transdisciplinary learning

design thinking

student agency

authentic constructionist

The students invented and designed a variety of tools to hopefully help improve the quality of life for their subject. Their dedication, enthusiasm and level of innovation was astounding!  Students explored problem solving through trial and error by digitally designing and modifying models on-screen, and revisiting that design after testing and analysing the printed prototype.

The 3D printer making the knife designed by the students
 Key to their success were the 3D printers. These machines were an integral tool that enhanced learning by bringing the students' designs and products to life. They produced a final and tangible product! As a result of this unit we've now got a number of students who can design and print an object completely independently, which is no small thing.

The knife being tested – a great success!

The 3D printer enriches the STEM concept immensely and when introduced within a rich inquiry, a design task with real world application has huge potential to enhance learning. 

George Velez in his article:


A 3D printer will no longer be a rare classroom accessory, or a tool transported from room-to-room on a cart. They will be the center of the classroom makerspace environment. Rather than teachers assigning students a clear objective for building a working 3D model, students will turn to this technology to complete cross-curricular project-based assignments, or to conceptualize algebraic formulas or sequences.

Velez believes 3D printing as a skill recommendation, or even requirement, is expected to become a reality as soon as 2019.

In conclusion, I believe new powerful technologies are a reality of education today. However, ensuring they are not just a fad driven purchase but introduced to enhance effective future focused pedagogy is key!