After a bit of reflection and professional reading over the holidays, here is what I want each and every lesson / experience / sequence of learning I facilitate to include. They are my Rules of Thumb for Designing Good Learning Experiences, circa early 2015.

  • Rich, deep, meaningful, original tasks: PUZZLE, PROBLEM, PROVOCATION, EXPLORE, PLAY, CHALLENGE – students will “work the hard parts”
  • Integrate reading, writing and inquiry – all ‘modules’ pre-planned and available so
    • A) students have the responsibility of choosing their own pathway through the learning and
    • B) so they can see “the whole game” of learning – see how each piece helps them develop new understandings, skills, and knowledge and
    • C) So I know I have coverage of all the things I know are important: content knowledge + web/visual literacy + disposition exercising (The Magnificent 8) + knowledge skills + creativity
  • Designed to be tight enough to be focused (creative constraints), but flexible enough to be self-negotiated
  • Be designed for M.V.T.A (Minimum Viable Teacher Assistance)
  • A catchy title and an interesting, original task + an introduction video (ie, a Generative Topic)
  • A WALT (We are learning to…) and a TIB (This is because…)
  • Linked reading / audio / video resources + official reading objectives
  • Linked knowledge building workshops / Snappers + official writing objectives
  • Scaffold appropriately with examples / models / exemplars (for practice, play, imitation, imagination, and simulations)
  • Online / offline component with a bias towards leveraging the opportunities provided by digital tech
  • Each will have a S.T.A.R moment (Something They’ll Always Remember)
  • Offer autonomy, mastery and purpose
  • Have “checkpoints” for feedback (self, peer, teacher)
  • Have a “want to know more?” or further curiosity prompts
  • Each will be aware of what the assessment is that term and contain elements of practice (you gotta do what you gotta do!)
  • Outcomes will be defined across understandings, skills, abilities and dispositions (within the process and final product) and digital badges provided based on these outcomes
  • Each will contain a reflection piece based upon the overall understandings of the inquiry + reflecting on the learning muscles being exercised + the inquiry process

My role then changes to:

  • “a stream of highly contingent, situation, problem and person-specific interventions and provocations – not nuggets of truth” – Claxton
  • Pushing, prodding, tilting towards understanding
  • Providing the knowledge or guidance needed at that time
  • Questioning, facilitating discussions
  • Providing EXCELLENT feedback based on content, understandings, AND dispositions
  • Tracking quality learning, ensuring engagement. Following up / chasing up.
  • Modelling good thinking and learning dispositions

Designing these kinds of learning experiences takes time, but that’s the bread and butter of teaching; it’s the stuff we should be spending our time on, wading through these complexities to facilitate challenging, interesting learning for our students.

Now….to actually sit down and get to it!

New media tools and frameworks have facilitated the rapid expansion of participatory, collaborative learning opportunities. I say expansion rather than generation because humans have always learned from one another throughout history. The New Zealand curriculum states “facilitating shared learning” as a valid, effective pedagogy. It’s just that in our current times, more than ever, we have the tools and infrastructure to enable these kinds of interactions to a previously unavailable extent.

The web allows people to come together in communities of like minded individuals, communicate with one another – work, play, and think together. The world has become more open. Content and data which was previously holed up in libraries or labs can now be accessed, commented on, and developed further. The world’s history is in the process of being digitised, catalogued and made searchable.

These nodes of knowledge are being connected together like synapses in the brain to other nodes – both real people (amateurs, experts, communities) and other pieces of data. Connections between previously unconnected nodes create new avenues of thinking, help solve problems and drive further questioning.

This availability of knowledge however, is challenging the traditional definitions of “teacher” and “student”. It begs the question – if all of the knowledge I’ll ever possibly need is a Google away, why do I need to be taught things from a teacher? Does the role of “teacher as expert” still exist?

This is one of my personal aims in this course – to explore what it means to be a teacher in these times of enormous change; the interplay between new forms of learning possible and the core skills needed to be taught to enable effective participation with them. As a primary school teacher responsible for laying foundational skills and knowledge to students aged 6 to 11, as well as growing their capability to live well in the future, this is of high personal interest.

        
So while without a doubt, some core sets of skills and knowledge remain central to our ability to learn and participate effectively, what Thomas and Seely Brown (2011) call our “new culture of learning” challenges our traditional emphasis on certain literacies. It calls upon a new model of competencies. It revises the toolbox of skills students need to actively participate in the world of the future. And this is butting up against what is traditionally thought of as “schooling” or “a good education” – notions particularly derived from the industrial, factory model set in the early 20th century. Notions which exist today in the form of standards and formal assessment, among others.

One of the competencies key to success in the future is the ability to adapt to rapid change. As people living in these times, how well are we dealing with these dynamic, often conflicting ideas of education?

This is the sharp end of the spear as I see it. Change, in practice, comes slowly to education – how can we speed it up? How can we move from isolated pockets of teachers and innovative schools trialling, thinking and doing, to a more mainstream application and understanding of 21st century learning? How can we get parents and community stakeholders understanding what it means to teach and learn in our connected, networked now?

These are some of the challenging questions I hope to investigate as I move through this course, and why I’ve decided to choose “Digital Leadership” by Eric Sheninger as the focus of my book review.

I’m looking forward to the journey ahead, in particular “walking the talk” – being actively engaged and participating in our community of learners.

 

References

How Humans Learn Best. Retrieved from http://changelearning.ca/get-informed/understanding-human-learning/how-humans-learn-best

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning. Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Educause: Berkley, Thomas D & Brown J, Souellis Studio.

TKI: Effective Pedagogy. Retrieved from http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum/Effective-pedagogy