Facilitating pedagogical conversations

As defined by the Oxford dictionary, pedagogy is the method and practice of teaching and I wonder how teachers discuss their craft.  How often do you have conversations about pedagogy with colleagues?  Is it a common occurrence?  What do you discuss about pedagogy?  How do you discuss pedagogy?  Personally I use the Modern Learning Canvas, a visual learning model developed by Richard Olsen. The Modern Learning Canvas breaks up the teaching and learning approach into nine essential components and allows you to view your teaching and learning holistically through each particular lens.

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The nine essential components are as follows:

Learner role – What decisions, voice and choice does a learner have in their learning?Strategies – What strategies do they use to learn?
Enablers – What enables these strategies to be effective?
Sequence – What is the order of the activities that they undertake?
Culture – What are the shared beliefs about what makes learning successful?
Policies – What are policies or rules that make learning successful?
Educator role – What value does the teacher bring to the learning?
Outcomes – What are the essential learning outcomes?
Pedagogical beliefs – What do we believe about teaching and learning?

These key questions are designed to provide conversation structure around teaching and learning practice and innovation. At the heart of the process is what you believe about teaching and learning, your pedagogical beliefs. Every element of your teaching and learning model should be validated against what you believe about pedagogy otherwise what’s the point. If you don’t believe in an element of your approach then why is it in there in the first place.  The Canvas can be a daunting framework upon first viewing but when created in a group, can really unlock a clear set of pedagogical beliefs.  Below are two examples that I co-created with colleagues.  The first is for a rewrite of our Year 7 Multimedia course and the second is an analysis of the Games Sense approach in Physical Education.

Year 7 Multimedia
Year 7 Multimedia
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Games Sense in Physical Education

The process of capturing pedagogy together is unbelievably powerful as it leads to great clarity and conversation.  You will also notice in the Games Sense canvas that there are green lights on each box.  This is a great feature of Richard’s website.  You can validate each component against your pedagogical beliefs.  The below image shows what this looks like on the site.

Validated against pedagogical beliefs
Validated against pedagogical beliefs

Although the Modern Learning Canvas is a powerful process on it’s own, it is actually a part of larger more complete process.  Richard calls this the IOI process or Inquiry Oriented Innovation.   To truly capture this, I’ll share in a series of posts.  To get you started with the Modern Learning Canvas, download a free printable copy here.  Have a go today and let me know how you go.  The more I use the Canvas as a tool, the more I start to view all elements of teaching and learning through theses nine lenses.  As always, thanks for reading and comments welcome.

The 3D printing landscape

The 3D printing landscape

On Saturday, Zara and I visited the 3D printing showcase at Melbourne Uni.  The showcase was held over two days (Friday and Saturday) and was a mix of exhibitions, hands on demos, guest speakers and student displays.  I went last year and the event was much smaller and so it was pretty amazing to think how quickly the landscape had developed in just one year.

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Walking around the showcase with my four year old daughter, I started thinking about where the 3D printing world would be when she was older.  In the 2013 Horizon report, 3D printing was listed as four to five years away from large scale adoption in schools.  So looking at that timeline leaves us about half way.  The price is a huge limiting factor for schools but with the increase in demand and in suppliers comes the price war that will drive it down and make it more affordable for all.  At my school we have dipped our toes in the water and purchased the UP Mini and it has been extremely popular with all age groups.  Students download images from Thingiverse or use Google SketchUp to create and print their own ideas.   We now have a large collection of things.  Printed models that look nice and have a wow factor but the learning in my opinion is low tier at the moment.  For me, the purpose of each printed item is largely lacking.  I would like a spinning top so I print one.  I would like a dragon for my desk so I print one.  I’m looking for designed solutions.  Items that add value to society, solve a problem or enable high level creative originality.  The best examples of 3D printing use at my school have fallen into these categories.  One of our IT technicians didn’t have tweezers small enough to complete a particular task so he printed a pair.  One student had an original idea for an engine and so he designed it and printed the components (this kid will be famous one day, amazing learner!!).  3D printing in education is still an emerging technology and so we are still in the midst of just printing things.

How does it become mainstream?  How does it become embedded?  In my opinion, Purpose, Pedagogy and professional partnerships.  Designs need real purpose and not just gimmicky.  The pedagogy needs to rich and enable original design and thinking.  Schools needs to partner with professionals in the industry to tap into their knowledge, skillset and resources.  Understanding how it is used in industries such as engineering, medicine, etc… really can increase the potential for students.


Is the learning in your classroom “hard fun”?

Seymour Papert often talked about learning needing to be “hard fun”.  Make writing hard fun.  Make reading hard fun.  The term hard fun was brought to his attention by a student who was working on a LOGO project.  It was a student enjoying what they were doing , being thoroughly challenged by what they were doing and most importantly enjoying the tough challenge.  This is fun but it is hard.

Reading the recent media blow up of the OECD reports and the really loose correlation between the amount of computers in a school and a student’s literacy and numeracy performance, I spent some time wondering about the health of tech use in our schools (For a great analysis and synthesis of the OECD report, check out Audrey Watter’s post here or a Storify of Richard Olsen’s comments here, thanks John Pearce!).  In my role, I see great learning with and because of technology.  I also see really low level use.  The high level use is most often synonymous with creation and the low level use is most often synonymous with consumption (Audrey really hits the nail on this one).  The OECD report was really loose with their explanation of what computer use actually referred to and this for me was a frustrating element as the loose correlations and inferences allowed for plenty of finger pointing.

With the report digesting in my brain, I spent the week in the classroom wondering how the OECD landscape compared with my own.  When did computer use benefit learning?  When did it not?  On Friday, my Digital Leaders presented their Makey Makey projects during Junior School assembly.  The hand made guitars and piano stairs were created wholly by these students and there was so much “hard fun” present.  Creativity, critical thinking and collaboration were in abundance and the learning was phenomenal.  Straight after that I worked with my Year 9 student’s on a media project and I was pulling my hair out in frustration at the low tier use.  They weren’t really enjoying the work and were completely satisfied with handing in “just enough”.  I’m not sure what the opposite to “hard fun” is but they had it covered and ironically enough these Year 9 students would be eligible for PISA testing next year.  I spent plenty of time reflecting on the two classes and I kept coming back to “hard fun” and not the OECD assumptions.  The learning for my Year 9 students was somewhat engaging, had wavering challenge limits and the results showed for themselves.  Is this because of the technology?  Nope.  These students were really apathetic about what they were learning.  There was no genuine interest, no real purpose and throw in a heavy conditioning program to do well on tests and get good grades and you arrive here.  What happens in the gap between Year 5 & Year 9?  Where is the hard fun?

How does one create experiences that are hard fun for everyone?  According to Ben Wildeboar, (@WillyB),

“Designing hard fun learning experiences requires a bit more flexibility, a lot more student control, and a heckuva lot less “feeding” students the one right way.”  

The notion of fun in a school sense is a particularly interesting concept.  In a landscape of national curriculum, standardised testing and ATARs, can we really let the students choose what they learn?  There are schools like Templestowe College that are allowing this exact thing and are transforming the learning for their community as a result.  Would it work at your school?  Choice is not everything but It is fun choosing what you wish to study.   Papert  “argued for learning experiences that are fun because they are hard“.   Learning that drives you to push through when you are struggling.  The sad part is that nowhere in the OECD report was there any indication that the use of technology was hard fun…just a whole bunch of web browsing, skill and drill tasks and low level thought tasks.



More than just programming

I remember learning LOGO at school fondly.  I loved the interplay between the language and the output.  What we were creating was really basic but the whole process was really engaging.  These days the landscape has shifted tremendously and there is a plethora of options to introduce learners to programming.  One of the best ways that I have seen to introduce young learners to programming is through the use of a tiny little robot called an Ozobot.


The Ozobot is a line following robot which follows black, red, blue or green lines or special combination of lines called Ozocodes (see below for the Ozocodes).

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Click on the image for a PDF link to the Ozocodes

Writing a program that the robot can follow is as easy as drawing a line on a piece of paper.  My four year old was able to do it instantly and the Year Four students I worked with yesterday were able to do it instantly.  It instantly appealled to all age groups, boys and girls and allowed students to program a robot.

Mini programs that my daughter and I made together
Mini programs that my daughter and I made together

However, to just limit the impact that the Ozobot has (and other programming mediums) to just learning how to input code to specify a specific output would be selling it short.  These are the extra elements that I witnessed as a result of learners using the Ozobot.  Due to the fact that programs are easy to write and rewrite, learners quickly entered in a rapid prototyping frame of mind.  They made short programs, tested them and then readjusted or gave themselves a tick.  It was building learning resilience and reflective thinking because the effort required to have success initially was not threatening.  Once learners had success or didn’t, they quickly tried again and were highly motivated to do so.  The great element about the low entry level for success was that it then built up an increased willingness to take learning risks and rise to learning challenges.  Learners openly discussed with peers about their programs and offered solutions to challenges.  The programs tapped into individual creativity and allowed for each learner to add their own programming flair.  When I used one Ozobot with a small group of students, it promoted turn taking and testing respect as students had to wait to have their go and also had to wait till the program had run its course.  Now with a low entry level for success, there is the possibility that the interest level will wane once there is no more challenge but not with the Ozobot.  There are a range of iPad apps that the Ozobot can be used with.  It can be as simple as the lines on a blank page or can escalate in difficulty to OzoBlockly which works in a very similar fashion to Scratch.

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The best thing for me though was seeing and hearing students fist pumping and cheering when they achieved success.  In my opinion, the learners of the future will need to be fluent in a second spoken language and also a programming language and the Ozobot is definitely a great introduction to the amazing world ahead of them.

Year 4 students creating their first robot programs
Year 4 students creating their first robot programs







Some thoughts on professional development

[Image: Flickr user Denise Carbonell]
I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about professional development. Over the past month I have presented at the DLTV conference, ran an all day workshop on transformative learning to staff from around Victoria and have completed numerous training sessions with staff from my school. After the exhilaration of such challenges, some amazing conversations and plenty of reflection I was left with a few lingering thoughts. So what better way to flesh out my thoughts than to jot them down in a blog post.

“It’s all about the networking”
It wouldn’t be a conference without this line being spouted numerous times. Are conferences merely vessels for networking? Are the sessions just background noise while we chat amongst ourselves or through back channels? For me, yes and hats off to DLTV for providing a conference where you didn’t need to go to a session to be inspired, learn and connect. I spent time in the Games space and the Scootle lounge lost in Lego poetry, discussions with Kynan Robinson about theories of knowledge and listening to Eleni Kyritsis talk about Genius hour. All the while I was hanging out chatting with my good friend Aaron Davis. It seemed the richest conversations happened on the way to a session so sometimes we just kept walking even if that meant we missed out on a session. Sessions can be hit or miss. Looking at the crowd at our session, there were definitely people that would have felt like our session was a hit or a miss. So if the conference is all about the networking and the sessions can be a hit or miss, then what does the conference look like? Can you build a conference around networking or do we need the sessions to amplify the conversation? Is school like this for our students? As usual I’m left with more questions but I would love for some thoughts and feedback from others.

“What are you prepared to give?”
One conversation that really got under my skin was with a colleague who felt she had to justify to the other teachers at her school why she was speaking at DLTV. “Why are you presenting?” “How come they asked you?” “You’ve only been teaching for a few years, what could you share?” This mindset infuriates me. Within a PLN that spans the globe, this teacher is revered but within the walls of her own school she is questioned for speaking out of turn. Her response to the situation was right on the money…”I wasn’t asked, I asked to present!” The best professional development requires giving, whether it be your opinion, your story or your skill. The more that I give to my PLN, the more I grow. Whether it be contributing to the #aussieED chat on Twitter, presenting at a TeachMeet or having a beer and banter at #beerpedagogy, the contributions that I give grow me as a learner.  Preparing my perspective for a blog post or planning a workshop helps me to evolve but it also contributes to the evolution of other learners. One of my favourite quotes is “without contribution, we don’t have true collaboration”. In a classroom, we strive to have everyone engage and contribute however, there are times at PD sessions where we simply rock up and sit back. My challenge to you is to throw your hat in the ring. Give your two cents, reach out and connect with other perspectives and challenge your learning. Aaron Davis wrote a great post on whether or not PLN was a verb or noun in your world.  Make PLN a verb and like my colleague said, just ASK!


Digital organisation & process using Trello

TRELLO (1)Staying organised is a challenge for everyone and I have used a range of strategies to try and keep myself sane, on task and time managed.  Personally Evernote, IFTTT, Twitter and Flipboard help keep my learning flowing and organised but I hadn’t yet found a process that worked for the To Do lists and project management tasks.  I was using Any.Do for a time but it was quite limited and I kept passing over the same tasks every day.  Then along came Trello.  I was introduced to Trello by a colleague who was using Trello to assist Year 5 students with managing their writing process.  Trello allows you to create boards that are flexible, easy to set up, use and share and they also work on any platform.  The below boards showcase how Trello can assist students to organise and manage a key learning process.  These boards were set up by the teacher and shared personally with each student.  The board was also shared with the parents to highlight the learning processes we use for writing, provide them a clear snapshot of the work that their child is or is not doing and once again opens up a rich dialogue between the parent, child and teacher.  The below examples are in a 1:1 iPad environment but I use Trello mainly on a laptop and iPhone.

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The list headings can be set out as you like and the key to Trello is the cards.  Each card has a large range of features that you can utilise.  From checklists to due dates to colour coding to pictures and attachments, there is a huge range of items one can add to personalise and empower the boards.  Every movement in Trello is also documented and time stamped and so it really allows you insight into how a student managed their time on the task.  Due to it’s ease of use and flexibility, it is very engaging to interact with and so you are more likely to dedicate some time to developing the project.  I personally have boards set up to manage projects, daily workflow and big picture vision items for our school.  I also use it to keep my personal learning on the holidays ticking over.  Moving items from a To Do list to Doing really helps to narrow the focus of your time and of course there is nothing like crossing the item off the To Do list or in Trello’s case, moving it to the Done list.  Trello would work for any digital or learning process.

To Do, Doing, Done
To Do, Doing, Done

Provoking thinking using Verso

I recently have been introduced to the app Verso and have been blown away by the possibilities for capturing true student opinion, understanding and feedback.  The aim of Verso is to flip your thinking and through the personal contribution of your own knowledge you gain access to the online knowledge community that is generated.  Teachers create provocations to prompt discussion and these “flips” can take the shape of YouTube clips, web links & Google Drive files (For iPad users, you can also record video, audio and insert photos using your iPad).  The prompts are best helped when framed with a question or a task.  Students must submit their response before they can access everyone else’s opinions.  This really helps to gauge true understanding or opinion and reduce the “what do you think” syndrome that can happen in class discussions.  It really does provide an equal platform for all learners to have a say.  Once you are in the knowledge community, you can “like” other comments and write responses and comments.  Another difference that further enhances the capacity of Verso to gauge true thought is that each student is anonymous within the community.  In the teacher view, the teacher can view who wrote each post and who commented on what but for the students, this is hidden.  This then helps to reduce friends liking friend’s comments and helps to capture true public opinion.  The teacher can then group students in a number of ways to continue the discussion.  The teacher might group like minded students to work on the development of a concept or group students with opposing opinions to provide a well balanced thought pool for a further discussion.  Each comment can also be rated for it’s helpfulness and provide the teacher and learner with great fuel for digital commentary etiquette sessions and workshops on how to give rich feedback.  Verso is cross platform (gotta love device agnostic learning applications!!) and can work for all levels of school.  The below video is a little glittery but it gives you a snapshot of the possibilities.

Thanks for reading