Teaching & Learning in the 21st Century

Here’s a short video that provides a look at one of my educational endeavours since my last post on this blog. I’ve been coordinating the ‘Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century’ professional development program involving approximately 240 teachers from across Victoria for the Digital Learning Branch, part of Victoria’s Department of Education and Training.

If you can’t see this video because YouTube is blocked in your school, you can see another copy here.

It’s been a great opportunity to work with some amazing people. Presenters at our face to face days included educators and thinkers like Will Richardson, Jenny Luca, Mel Cashen, Margo Edgar, Rich Lambert, Narissa Leung, John Pearce, Lois Smethurst, Bec Spink and Andrew Williamson. What a list! In addition to many of our presenters acting as team coaches we also benefitted from the coaching skills of another impressive list of educators that included Corrie Barclay, Roland Gesthuizen, Sam Irwin, and Michelle Meracis. Apart from our conferences at NMIT, most of our activity is within private Google+ Communities, but you can also see some of it on the blogs listed below and by checking out the #TL21C hashtag on Twitter.

2013-2014 1st group’s blog.
2013-2014 2nd group’s blog.
2014-2015 groups’ blog.

As usual, the best places to catch up with my thoughts and activity in education and technology are Google+ and Twitter, though you’ll find me discussing other topics too. Here are some of my G+ collections on edtech and education:

Edtech collection.
Education collection.

Here are the links to the Private Communities on G+ for participants in the TL21C programs:

2013-2014 1st group.
2013-2014 2nd group.
2014-2015 groups.

Does technology help or hinder effective learning?

Does technology hinder or help learners? It all depends. Handled poorly, it’s a disaster! Handled well, it’s magic!

Here’s how technology can help weave the magic required to foster five qualities possessed by highly effective learners.

Honesty
Great learners are prepared to acknowledge their mistakes and to acknowledge what they don’t know. They acknowledge their inconsistencies when they discover them or have them pointed out to them. They don’t put borders around ‘no go zones’ immune from critical self-examination – even when this involves questioning beliefs that are precious to them. Great learners also share what they know and what they believe. They respond to others with honesty. They challenge, hopefully with tact, the mistakes of others and, in doing so, will sometimes learn that those ‘mistakes’ are not mistakes at all. The web provides a rich environment for enquiry and communication. It’s also a place where we go ‘on the record’ – mistakes included. That makes honesty the prudent policy.

Open mindedness
This quality is close to honesty, but involves a conscious recognition that the world is a place where surprising and counterintuitive things are discovered all the time. Great learners expect surprises. Exploring the web with an open mind encourages discovery and reduces the risk of confirmation bias. Those who study US Politics with an open mind visit both Huffington Post AND Fox News. Great learners want to hear both sides, and there’s no better place to find different views than the web.

Curiosity
Great learners are curious. Sometimes they find themselves on the web at 1am in the morning examining the finer details of a topic they’ve never explored before. Breeding chickens? Nuclear physics? Who knows? The web has a way of leading them down strange and unplanned paths towards discovery. It’s wonderful, it’s tempting and sometimes it’s almost irresistible.

Focus
Focus is the antidote needed to keep curiosity in check and on track. It’s possessed by all great learners, but it’s not something the open web encourages. Distraction is the bane of many connected learners. But great learners use mindfulness, self-discipline and technology itself to tame the distractions. They use things like the Ten Minute Hack to get started and the Pomodoro Technique to keep going. They use focused virtual desktops on Windows or spaces on OSX to remove distracting temptations. They work full screen in browsers and use tools like Stay Focused in Chrome. But most of all they work without allowing distractions to divert them from what’s important. Then they treat themselves to some free-roaming exploration when the important tasks are done.

Creativity
Great learners are creative. They use their imagination to come up with original ideas and produce things that others find appealing or informative. The explosion of web-apps makes creativity online easier than ever before. The list of creative projects is endless – writing, music, art, video, presentations etc. A scan of the Chrome Webstore demonstrates the extraordinary range of creative possibilities made possible by online technology.

Great learners benefit greatly from technology.

Technology is magic for learners.

New Literacies Video Presentation

Here is the New Literacies Group video presentation from the culminating session of the PLP ConnectU program for DEECD teachers in 2011. It features students from Winters Flat PS, Castlemaine PS, Berwick PS, Kalinda PS and Yuille Park Community College.

The students talk about:
– using blogs
– using Google Docs
– using the Ultranet
– improving their traditional literacy skills
– learning new digital literacies