Thinking about data – “What we need are new ways to read the data…” /Student survey

Standards: 1.2; 4.5; 5.1

This image is from a Slideshare presentation, Emergent Learning, by Jesse Stommel and Amy Collier.

When designing and evaluating my student survey I started to think about how we might gain insight into student learning so that we can design surveys that produced valuable data to inform our teaching philosophy.  I found the ideas by Jesse and Amy to be worthy of consideration.  Here is the link to the complete slideshow.

I was going to pull out a few slides that resonated with me regarding student learning, assessment and learning outcomes, but there were so many and I included most of them.

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Sharing with wider community at TeachMeet @MHS / Focus #1 and #2

Standards: 6.1; 6.2; 6.3; 6.4; 7.1; 7.4

(This has been reposted from my other blog.)

These kinds of professional meetings are invaluable. Apart from the fact that it’s free and so you can attend many throughout the year. I love the format which consists of voluntary talks/presentations of either 3 or 7 minutes, so easy to keep focusing. Sometimes long keynotes can be difficult to digest (although they can be good  – but they can also be not so good). TeachMeets are informal so the short presentation lends itself to discussion – therefore it’s more interactive than most formal PDs. The range of educational settings is great to broaden your perspective – and so we can learn so much from primary and museum settings, from elearning and tertiary people. The emphasis is most certainly on getting to know people and also in connecting with them through social media so that the PD value is extended and they possibly become part of your network.

I always blog about things and so I aim to capture information which might be useful to others – whether they are in my own school or anywhere else. I like using the blog for reflection and evaluation, and for re-reading later.

As teacher librarian whose focus is constantly cross-curricular, I never waste any morsel of information, knowledge, resource or expertise. Everything is carefully curated in my archival system – either in Diigo, Pinterest, Pocket, Scoop.it or similar so that I can locate it when someone needs it, or when I want to create a resource for teachers or students.

Last Saturday we hosted a TeachMeet in the school library. A TeachMeet is an informal gathering of people working in the education sector coming together to share ideas and expertise. It’s a great way to hear about what educators are doing in the primary, secondary, tertiary and public (eg museums) sectors. TeachMeets happen all over the world and meetings are held wherever people are happy to host. The format is simple – you can turn up or you can volunteer to present for either 3 or 7 minutes. There is usually a break for refreshments halfway through and it’s also customary for the hosts to suggest a nearby venue for drinks or dinner after the Meet. And it’s free!

Using bots to teach kids coding (Steve Brophy)

You can see in the wiki that we had a decent number of people attending, from a range of educational backgrounds. I always find that, as a secondary school educator, I learn so much from the primary teachers, from e-learning leaders, from people who work in public libraries and museums. And since the sharing sessions are so short, there is time for what’s most important – the conversations. Many people are also on social media so it’s a good chance to keep in touch later on Twitter or through their blogs, for example.

Order of presentations (see TeachMeet link for shared presentations):

Steve Brophy @stevebrophy Ivanhoe Grammar School K-12: Paper and programming

Bernadette Mercieca @bernm9  Xavier College E-Learning coord/teacher: What are we doing to help early career teachers flourish?

Eleni Kyritsis @misskyritsis Firbank Grammar School: Student Inquiry

Jan Molloy @janpcim Immigration Museum P-tertiary:   #AskACurator Sept 16 Getting involved

Catherine Morton @gorokegirl Melbourne High School Teacher Librarian and Fiona Matthews Whitefriars College Lead Coach – Learning, Teaching and Technology : One Conversation at a Time: Peer Coaching

Kim Yeomans @kimyeo St Martin of Tours primary TL: Connecting with authors via Twitter.

Tania Sheko @taniatorikova Melbourne High School How to really get to know people online.

Mel Cashen @melcashen Princes Hill: My reflection from camp

Kristy Wood @Kristy_M_Wood Primary teacher K-6: Teacher wellbeing

If you are interested in learning more about the presentations – since you can’t really get much from the titles – I would encourage you to go to the wiki where some people have already shared links to their presentations next to their names in the program. I’m sure there will be more shared later so check in again.

When I wrote a blog post about my talk – how to really get to know people online – I shared it on Twitter with a few people whom I’d met in an online course (MOOC), Rhizo15. These were people I had mentioned in my post. The morning before the TeachMeet I noticed some feedback from these people (none of them in Australia) which I was able to quickly add to my slide presentation. It was a lovely example of how these relationships continue to evolve long after the course (MOOC) has finished. After the TeachMeet I noticed Kevin Hodgson had even created a comic for us – very special.

The best way to see some of the ideas and passion shared on this day is to look through the Storify below which captures some of the tweets and photos on Twitter.

[View the story “TeachMeet @MHS” on Storify]

Presentation at Teachmeet we hosted @MHS/ Focus #2

Standards: 6.1; 6.2; 6.3; 6.4; 7.1; 7.4

(This post was written as a transcript of a short presentation I gave at a Melbourne TeachMeet at Melbourne High School 12 September 2015).

How do you really get to know people in an online course? Ask a child! What would a child do? A child would play.

And so we did in Rhizo15, the connected MOOC. It was new to me and I loved every minute.

I wanted to be playful so I wrote a play. In response to the weekly prompt: “Learning subjectives: designing for when you don’t know where you’re going.”

I was unsure about how people would feel about the play – and if they would read it at all – so I was surprised when I received lots of positive comments (blog comments don’t always happen for me) and Terry Elliott suggested we make it into a radio play. Simon Ensor added the comment: “I second Terry. I’m in for rhizoradio or other play. Do we have to do casting for the role of Mr X or do we crowdcast?”

I felt encouraged and sent out an invitation to a Google Doc so we could write the play collaboratively.

Hello there. My name is Tania Sheko. Thanks for responding so positively to this short piece of fiction/non-fiction. I’m taking up the suggestion to create something for #rhizoradio (suggested by Terry Elliott and seconded by Simon Ensor) and other suggestions to do a collaborative rewrite eg include a larger cast so we can actually (somehow) create a podcast for #rhizoradio (which is going to be a thing I think). Hope you can join me here!
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1oBqaFkUkRgirz-l8jhh4RKSEGfmLr4j649kJKKGirFg/edit

But how would we bring everyone together to produce the radio play/podcast?

Maha (from Cairo) was thinking about a live reading:

It’s near impossible to organize across timezones but if you sleep really late and I wake really early we might catch the ppl in the US 😉 or the opposite, if u wake really early and I sleep really late we can make it at a good time for everyone. Usually around 10pm my time that’s 2pm EDT and I think early-ish morning for you?

In the end we decided to record our own parts on SoundCloud and send the file to Kevin Hodgson who generously took the time to put it all together.

Other things also happened – you can’t keep up with the rhizome. Actually, so much happened while I was sleeping last night:

Autumm Caines created a really neat video promo.

Autumm used the image created by Angela Brown in Pulp-O-Mizer.

Kevin Hodgson used Thinglink for his promo.

Sarah Honeychurch had fun remixing a popular Christmas tune for her promo.

Here’s the final version of the play (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Google doc version continues to evolve).

My THANK YOU:
My original story, Mr X loses his battle for objectivity, has been stormed, hacked and now exists as an evolved creation belonging to those playing and learning in the rhizome (#rhizo15). It is no longer mine and that’s a fantastic thing, something I’m excited about. Thank you, everyone, for the experience – in particular to Kevin for putting together the audio files – but also to those contributing voices, to the voices in the chat comments for the evolving Google doc, to those on Twitter and other social media platforms, to the creative people designing promos, and anyone else I’ve forgotten.  I know it sounds as if I’m accepting an Oscar (haha) but I really do want to thank all of you for the fun we’ve had together.

#Rhizoradio presents a radio play courtesy of the #rhizo15 community:

A Multitude of Voices

(aka) Mr X loses his battle for objectivity ( original unevolved title fromthe original story)

Was this a success in educational terms? We had fun!

Maha: it was some of the BEST fun I ever had… wish I could find a way to encourage my students to do something like this of their own initiative, but that’s not thinking rhizomatically… so I should think of how to create an environment that encourages the spirit of this kind of thing and see what emerges from their work!!!

We unpacked rhizomatic learning collaboratively and creatively. We got to know each other through play. We were amazed by each other – as each person initiated ideas and created things because they were inspired to do so. We keep in touch – in subsequent MOOCs, through hashtag conversations on Twitter. We reach out to each other with questions and challenges. We jump in when we see requests for collaboration and opportunities to do things together. I learned about different tech tools but more importantly why and how to use them. I added their blogs to my Inoreader, so I could keep reading them, I followed them on Twitter and made sure I added a Tweetdeck column to see what they were saying/doing, I explored what else they did online eg Soundcloud, Slideshare, Google +, in Facebook groups, and wherever else they were.

Don’t tell me that you can’t form friendships online.

After the presentations when we had the opportunity to chat at the pub (which is where all the great conversation takes place) someone said to me that they were expecting me to talk about risk when showing them how I shared my play, not knowing how people would respond. I could definitely have talked about risk and so many other things but the 7 minutes didn’t allow it.  Risk is part of play and creativity – you never know if what you share will be taken up, ignored or worse! What’s important in this situation is trust – trust that you know the people in your community well enough to be able to go out on a limb. That’s the difference between network and community in my opinion. Rhizo15 was (and still is) a community in which you got to know people well enough that you were able to take risks and be supported. In my case, my experimentation with the play as a way of playfully addressing the ‘learning subjectives’ was not only appreciated by people but they came in and played with me further. We remixed the play together and did so many other things that were creative and allowed people to bring their understanding and expertise to what is actually a serious academic context. Through play we achieved something we could not have done if we were just writing out our thoughts in a traditional way. I think there’s a lot more I could explore here about play, and that will have to wait.

Educators across contexts (EdContexts) – Google Hangout Conversations /Focus#1

Standards: 1.2; 1/3/ 4.1/ 6.1; 6.2; 6.3/ 7.4

I was invited by Maha Bali to be on the panel of an EdContexts Google hangout. Looking at the qualifications and experience of the other people on the panel I was initially intimidated but decided to do it anyway. Growth mindset! An opportunity to join a diverse group of people on the topic of contexts in learning. I believe everyone had a unique perspective on the broad topic. It’s a very different experience joining in a conversation in a webinar, keeping up with what’s being said and being put on the spot to speak (at which point you’re talking into a space you know is inhabited by the listening panel although you can’t see them). I’m so much more comfortable with writing – having the time to compose your thoughts, deleting what doesn’t come up to scratch, not exposing anything about your physical self. 

I believe this is part of the digital experience offered our students. We are still so text-centric at school; we should be allowing our students different digital platforms for communication and expression. These are the literacies we should be developing for ourselves in order to be in the position to open up new  possibilities to our students. 

Educators across contexts (EdContexts) – Google Hangout Conversations. (Link to blog post)

Thanks to Maha Bali for inviting me to take part in a webinar conversation about connected learning and contexts. Maha is one of my first MOOC friends when I jumped in last year, and she is the most generous and wide-reaching person.  It was great to meet everyone and chat about contexts in learning – just scratch the surface really –  great to meet new people, and talk to people I’ve known from online networks face to face (so to speak) for the first time eg Maha, Simon and Tanya (who’s from Sydney). Together we represented many contexts across geographical, cultural, linguistic and professional borders.

Of course, all participants are part of connected learning networks which can be discovered through their links below:

  • Maha Bali (host) – Associate Professor of Practice at the Center for Learning & Teaching at the American University in Cairo (AUC), located in Cairo, Egypt
  • Shyam Sharma (host) – Assistant Professor of writing and rhetoric at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, NY
  • Asao B. Inoue – Director of University Writing, Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington-Tacoma
  • Tanya Lau – eLearning Instructional Designer from Sydney, Australia
  • Tania Sheko – Teacher Librarian at a 9-12 secondary boys’ school in Melbourne, Australia
  • Simon Ensor – English teacher at the Université Blaise Pascal Clermont Ferrand in France

Lenandlar Singh was unfortunately unable to attend. His list of conference papers indicate he would have been a fantastic addition to the conversation.

Shyam and Maha were hosting and did a great job despite technical issues and Maha’s daughter waking, and thanks to  Liana for her excellent support as we all connected to the hangout. I know Terry Elliott was watching and tweeting and I know that others were too, asking questions in the #clmooc and #connectedlearning Twitter spaces.

The video and storify (summary of related tweets) is available on theConnected Learning website as well as additional links and resources shared by participants.

I discovered that one of our French teachers comes from where Simon is located – Clermont Ferrand. She is very excited about that and would like to make contact with him. We are thinking it would be fun to connect our students in way similar to the way he already does through CLAVIER.

Our recent focus on giftedness, differentiation. So many unanswered questions/ Focus #1

Standards: 1.2; 1.5

The purpose of this post was to reflect on my thinking and questions after the talk about ‘gifted and talented’ by Pelissa and Lynne during the staff meeting. I did some research and shared it, and this questioning led me to find and join Gifted Facebook and Google+ groups. I also started rethinking assessment and did further research on giftedness and differentiation, as well as assessment.

This was retweeted by Maha Bali (@Bali_Maha) by keesa v (@keesav) on Twitter.

At school we’ve been looking at giftedness and differentiation. Our leading teachers (Curriculum and Professional Development) have spoken about giftedness in a staff meeting and we have met in our faculty teams with the other inner city schools (‘City Edge’) – namely, Mac.Robertson Girls’, University High School, Melbourne Girls’, Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, Princes Hill Secondary College and Albert Park College – to discuss differentiation.

Being locked into differentiation within the library context has left me with a sense of dissatisfaction and many questions about the definition of giftedness and differentiation. I often feel that, coming from teaching to the library, I still think like a teacher and not so much like a librarian but I know also that there is no universal ‘teacher’ or ‘teacher librarian’ so I try to acknowledge my individual perspective as a positive thing.

The most basic question about giftedness – What is giftedness – remains a mystery to me. As Melbourne High School has been identified as a school with some experience of teaching the gifted – since we have a high achieving cohort – we are apparently somehow authoritative in this area of pedagogy. I find this problematic since we typically have what I would describe as hard working students (on the whole), certainly with many intelligent and talented amongst the cohort.  Are they gifted? Some present as gifted – which means we recognise giftedness in them without having tested them. Our school attracts students who want to achieve a high score in their final VCE year and typically work hard towards this before entering the school in year 9 and throughout years 9-12.  Does this mean we cast a wide net and catch the gifted kids amongst the hard working ones? Perhaps. Do we miss gifted kids for various reasons eg. they don’t do well in tests, they are not interested in perfecting their testing skills, they are not interested in going to a highly competitive school? Perhaps. Do traditional IQ tests miss giftedness in the Arts: visual art, music, performing; creativity across disciplines?

Many students are trained early to do well in selective entry examinations. As Alice Pung states in her article The secret life of them: What it takes to shift class in Australia,  

There are now hundreds of such colleges around Australia, dedicated to drilling students in the skills needed to win scholarships to private schools, to get into selective state schools like MacRobertson or North Sydney Boys High, or to gain admission to state schools’ SEAL programs. These coaching colleges do not require any form of certification from state educational departments and are free to set their own curricula.

When my sons were very young I taught in one of these coaching colleges so that I could work weekends. Like Tina of Pung’s article, I found it ‘soul-crushing’.

“The scholarship classes I took were soul-crushing,” says Tina. “A coaching college! Dude, there are five-year-olds walking around that place. What are you possibly coaching them?” Still, Tina muses: “I am yet to meet an Asian child who doesn’t do some form of consistent tutoring.”

Less about learning (curiosity, inquiry, experimentation, collaboration…) and more about cramming disconnected fragments of information, I admit doing it for the money only. I taught primary and secondary English and Maths according to a strict script and at a frantic pace. I still remember a gorgeous Indian girl in my grade 2 class, after an hour of maths work, asking me if it was time to go home yet. I had to tell her that it wasn’t even half time.

Of course we don’t teach like that at our school but we do have students (and parents) whose concept of education is narrowly shaped by the cramming model, and whose learning resides in practice, practice and more practice.  So if we are a school known for ‘producing’ high ATARs, if we are locked into the VCE system where the focus is not on the process of learning but the final numerical position of the student in comparison to the rest of the state, do we have the time or opportunity to evaluate our teaching programs and our pedagogy?

From the outside I see how much time teachers spend on marking and reporting, and how they struggle to fit what will be tested at the end into the term – especially when so many things disrupt classes. From my privileged position as a teacher librarian who is not responsible for classes’ assessment, I try to persuade teachers to do things differently, eg to create learning communities through shared blogging and to encourage students to take responsibility for their learning supported by their peers – but I fail so many times. I don’t blame the teachers but I’m frustrated by the system.

Student empowerment is surely our focus and not the transfer of information or even skills.  As Ann writes in her post:

As an educator my main aim is creating/maintaining a space for individual empowerment and more importantly giving participants in the learning space the confidence to find the skills, information, and tools they need to feel empowered in society. It is not about imparting one specific nugget of information, a date, a theory, it is about supporting and nurturing that confidence so they can approach society, issues, and questions critically.

I think that teachers need the opportunity to unlearn – stop and reflect on how they are teaching and ask the most basic questions about teaching and learning to evaluate their pedagogy. But stopping to think is not part of the timetable. I’m not sure that times set aside in staff meetings or curriculum days will provide the opportunity for each of us to honestly say what we think. The structured meetings and student-free days have possibly not managed to provide a safe environment or created trust amongst teacher cohorts where they feel they can say what they really think.  Our inner city curriculum day for library staff was enjoyable and a great opportunity to catch up with other school library staff but for me it was still firmly planted in traditional library concerns. Differentiation is a broad term. We shared ways in which the library provided differentiation but it was all about what we do. For me, the basic questions – what is giftedness? what is differentiation? – remain untouched. I think we explored what we already know, what we already do, but we didn’t unpack the concepts to explore further.

So back to assessment.  Some of these ‘theses that work to re-imagine moocs’ are questions we might like to consider in schools also:

  • A course is a conversation, not a static reservoir or receptacle for content. Dave Cormier argues that “curriculum is not driven by predefined inputs from experts; it is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process.” A course is a starting point, a space in which learners can experiment with their agency, discover the complexity of their oppression, and begin to work toward more liberated action.
  • Outcomes should give way to epiphanies -Outcomes tell learners what is important in advance, making the act of learning neat and tidy, while deterring the unexpected and unruly epiphanies that arise organically from within a learning environment. Invention arises from self-governance.
  • Learning should not be structured to conform to assessment mechanisms.

    In truth, learning is not a process that can be structured in advance without first hobbling it, like fitting a body to box by chopping off its limbs. Much goes missing when we remove learning from learners’ hands, and manicure it for ease of instruction. When we ask students to conform their learning to the mechanisms by which we measure it, we are not permitting students to learn, we are asking them to pull the right lever at the right time to the right effect — automatons.

    Assessment is too often the enemy of innovation. Our inability to quantitatively assess something is often in direct proportion to its pedagogical value. The best work confounds us. Because of the rampant culture of assessment that devalues students and their work, we’ve internalized grading as compulsory in education; however, grading is done in many more situations than it is actually demanded.

See the rest of the article here.

So, back to the subject of giftedness. If we confuse giftedness with high achievement, we are in trouble. It might be worth revising the characteristics of giftedness before we start guessing who is gifted and who isn’t. Einstein, Newton, Edison, Tolstoy, Pasteur, Lincoln – these are only some of the notable gifted people throughout history who were not high achievers in school.

Differentiation is an aspect of pedagogy. It’s not just providing extra work or more difficult work for advanced students. I think we should start our conversation about differentiation by looking at learning itself to remind us that our teaching should be built on our understanding of learning. Let’s bring the student to the focus, not the content, the outcome or even teaching itself.