Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Capes Not Required: listening and learning @ Sydney EdTech Team Summit

As well as presenting my blogging session at the EdTech Team Summit in Sydney, there was much to learn from both experts at keynote addresses and presentation sessions delivered by classroom teachers.  

Jesse Lubinsky, an American innovator and Director of Technology at a New York school district, opened the summit with his keynote address, Capes Not Required.

What has shaped and influenced our lives as teachers? What extraordinary things can we achieve as teachers? Using his love of comics and superheroes as an analogy, Jesse believes that a learner’s journey through school is akin to the 12 stages of the hero’s journey:

Jesse asked us to think about how can we support learners as they travel the hero’s journey from the ordinary world to become superheroes when they reach the end of their journey through school. A teacher’s role, according to Jesse, is being the mentor along the way who nurtures persistence and accuracy. We are there to ensure that school doesn’t inadvertently become a difficult test for some learners. Our role is to get to know our learners as individuals because we want what’s best for them. We are the superheroes who encourage passion, provide opportunities, celebrate scars along the way and honour each learner’s individuality.

Lindsay Wesner, a keynote speaker from South Africa, also alluded to the power of a teacher’s story to shape the stories and passions of learners when she began her address, Once upon our time, by asking “What is the point of change technology?”  Although we may fear change, worry that there is never enough time to make change, she encouraged us all to strap on our shark fin to face our fears because it is worth investing our time learning to use change technology because it matters for the success of our learners.

Lindsay expanded upon her thinking in this area during her Deep Dive session, The power of possibility - cultivating a growth mindset in your classroom.  As a group, we collaborated to reach a shared understanding of a growth mindset, shared here in Lindsay’s graphic:

According to Lindsay, the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset is the power of the word “yet”!

We want our students to believe they can succeed so it’s about offering our learners multiple opportunities to follow a passion to success. Of course, to achieve success, learners need to have been involved in co-constructing a rubric, seen an example of a finished product (as long as this exemplar does not become a recipe) and enjoy opportunities to celebrate their success. Lindsay shared powerful ways in which change technology can support a growth mindset:
  • Google Forms can be used a little like choosing your own adventure story: a learner is taken on a different learning journey based on their answers to particular questions by using different sections within the form. If a learner is flying through, they will be taken directly to an extension and enrichment task. If a learner is struggling, the form will take them back to a support video and then the same questions will be asked in a different way.
  • Choice boards offer learners opportunities to present their understanding and thinking in different ways through differentiated tasks. Teachers don’t have to do or know how to do all of the tasks, we just have to think of what a learner needs to be able to do. We can give students tasks that are non-traditional.
As teachers, we need to show our learners that we value their learning process and not just the finished product. Kimberley Hall reiterated the importance of valuing the learning process during her deep dive into the digital tools we can use to support project-based learning.

How can we find out what students already know about a topic? Kimberley introduced us to a number of tools that synthesise previous understandings. AnswerGarden is one such tool in which students can share thinking and key words about a specific topic. The live word cloud is generated and regenerated as words are added. The font size changes depending on the number of times the same words repeat. Kimberley’s key recommendations when using AnswerGarden:
  • Keep the character count to 20 to enable learners to get to the crux of an issue.
  • The spam filter is off by default. It should always be changed to "on".
  • Change "browse other answer gardens" to hidden so that students are not searching and taking other ideas. They have to show their own thinking.
  • The default text is lower text, which makes it easier for the programme to collate data.
  • Take a screenshot of the word cloud as a record of ideas, thinking and learning.
Here is an example of a word cloud we generated at the conference:

Further information on all of the digital tools explored and shared by Kimberley can be found in my copy of her presentation.

We all like to create exciting and engaging learning opportunities by using the full range of tools within GAFE. However, John Meng, Deputy Principal at Rooty Hill High School, shared how he uses the Google suite of apps for a different purpose - formative assessment. He introduced his session by exploring the differing approaches to providing feedback put forward by Professor John Hattie and Dr Douglas Fisher. John Meng’s preferred model is Doug Fisher’s Gradual Release of Responsibility because he believes that Doug Fisher puts common sense in a sensible order:

This approach to teaching and learning is supported at Rooty Hill High School through a common way of planning across the school in all learning areas: every child walks into class to see the same planning format up on the screen. Students are hooked into learning through digital technology, collaborate digitally and in person and select how they will demonstrate their learning from a range of digital options:
  • Thinkwell - Maths videos on youtube
  • Google Slides
  • Google Slides voiceover
  • Prezi (very impressive but can cause vertigo)
  • Powtoon
  • Screencastify
  • Keynote
  • Google sites
  • Voki (language teachers love this)
  • Lucidchart (maths teachers love this)
  • Google photos - story
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics
  • Kahoot! (If questions are written carefully, answers can be used as formative assessment.)
  • Google sheets (Data validation - like comments)
These options offer multiple formative assessment opportunities from peers and the teacher. John also uses individual commenting within Google as cues for learners (for example, "Have you thought about ... ?, Go and ask ...) in a way that is similar to Linsday Wesner setting up different sections within a Google form.

Having listened carefully to many interesting ideas and presentations, it now remains for me to assimilate my new learning about Google Apps for Education from the conference to leverage my creativity and efficiency to support individual learners as they strive to succeed. No cape required!

No comments:

Post a Comment