Decisions and moving forward

If you waited till you thought you had the absolute best answer, sometimes you would never make a decision.

ImageI watched today as the result of a long decision making process was rolled out – 1:1 Chromebooks for some students, 1:2 for others and shared Win8 tablets for others.   These are new devices supported by the existing ones and new Wireless.  This was the decision of a hard working group of teachers, students and parents when asked to consider the issue of enhancing the personalisation of learning through technology.

Many schools when making choices about upgrading technology, leave the decision to a few ‘leaders’ – making well thought out but less consultative choices.  I am proud of the process we explored, which although time consuming provided a result that is considered, consultative and above all focussed on the needs of the teaching and learning and ultimately improved outcomes.  I don’t deny we may have made acceptable decisions without this process but I am extremely confident that the community understand this decision, it is justifiable and above all supported by all.

Our process can be roughly summarised like this:

  1. Determine a need for change and define an ambition. In our case, “To investigate and identify devices to personalise the learning for students.”
  2. Form a representative team to lead the process and consult with other stakeholders – leadership, parents and students
  3. Carefully analyse the needs and possible pathways
  4. Investigate options – research, consult (this included vendors, other schools, alumni etc)
  5. Decide based on criteria from all involved as well as important considerations such as budget !
  6. Consult stakeholders and inform

In the end we had a solution and it is now being enacted and it is exciting to watch and be part of.


Through my Window

Child's Sketch based on written description only
Child’s Sketch based on written description only

I am always keen to find opportunities for our students to see themselves as learners in a wider context than their school.  As they grow, they will be connected in so many ways I could never have imagined 20 years ago.  So when we can find purposeful opportunities to enhance their learning and model the potential of connected learning I jump at it.

Recently, we conducted a Mystery Skype and it reminded me of many years ago, before I began blogging and before I was very aware of the wonders of Web 2.0 when  I worked with a class on a collaborative project called “Through my Window”.  In 2009 it went like this :

  • 4 classes connected (via email in those days)  They were based in varied environments, rural, city etc.
  • Each class took photos of scenes outside their classroom windows
  • They then wrote a Descriptive piece describing the scene in great detail – much work went into the language required : foreground etc
  • Each class then exchanged written descriptions by mail (NOT photos)
  • Each class then proceeded to draw the scene described to them
  • We then exchanged the images and were able to see how well our descriptions portrayed the scenes.

The learning involved was enormous, the ability to write a very clear description of a scene down to fine details, then the ability to decipher another person’s detail.  The students worked in teams and allocated roles, it was a wonderful task.  Probably my first experience with being a connected teacher and certainly the first time our students had collaborated in a meaningful way with students from other parts of the country.


Step forward  into 2014 and we participated in our first Mystery Skype.  This is also not new, but whilst looking at the level of engagement I was struck with the potential of this activity.  We are in Metropolitan Melbourne and were Skyping a class of older students from rural Victoria about 280kms apart and had prepared questions to help determine their location.  For 9 and 10 year olds, this is a challenging task, involving mapping skills, geographical knowledge and language, thinking skills, powers of deduction.  They utilised a variety of tools including atlases and digital mapping skills.  The digital maps proved essential as we narrowed down the possibilities as our destination did not actually appear on any of the printed maps we had.

The teachers had prepared the students very well with possible questions but as you can imagine the questions were only one element, it was just as important to make deductions from the answers and this requires high level thinking.   As this was our first practice we were thrilled to be working with a very experienced globally connected educator, Anne Mirtschin.  Despite having lots of students crammed in to one working space, they remained engaged, enthusiastic and respectful throughout.  We will definitely be arranging some more experiences like this to expand on the learning and extend their geographical knowledge.  I think it would also be good to re-invent the Through My Window project.  Our blogs would make that process much easier now.  In either case, we are helping our students branch out, learn with and alongside students in other schools and gain perspectives otherwise not possible.

Future skills

It is reassuring to see the link between our endeavours as primary school teachers and ‘real life’.  Whilst I agree with the notion that school IS real life and not a dress rehearsal, there is no doubt our job is to try to equip our students to be able to handle the world beyond school.    This is getting increasingly difficult as our ability to forecast what that will look like is harder and harder with the ever increasing pace of change.  The Drivers for change and Future work skills listed in the infographic below are interesting and I think provide a good point for discussion.

I have a university graduate daughter who is currently applying for a variety of jobs.  I watched with great interest as she was recently put through the hoops of an application process and wondered how our education system is preparing our students for this .  The recent process involved:

  1. An online application form.  These included a cover letter and  a current resume
  2. Participate in a video or phone interview
  3. A group interview participating in both group and individual activities
  4. Complete a behavioural based interview and 10 minute oral presentation.

This process is rigorous and demanding but not unusual in today’s competitive job market.  I obviously think about the young students we are working with, and the experiences that we give them and believe we are on the right track.

Our students are experiencing the opportunity of working collaboratively toward common goals, working independently, interacting in online spaces, presenting their findings in a variety of methods including oral presentations.  I believe that many if not most, would not be daunted by the process, even if there would be obvious levels of capability.

According to Future Work Skills 2020  Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute

To be successful in the next decade, individuals will need to demonstrate foresight in navigating a rapidly shifting landscape of organizational forms and skill requirements. They will increasingly be called upon to continually reassess the skills they need, and quickly put together the right resources to develop and update these. Workers in the future will need to be adaptable lifelong learners.

Are we preparing these lifelong learners ?  How ?  Could we be doing it better?

Important Work Skills for 2020

“Why our schools are NOT failing your children” – another teacher tells

Reading the newspaper should expose us to divergent thoughts and make us think.  Indeed, this mornings breakfast reading did just that and like Mel Cashen  I felt I needed to respond to Johanna O’Farrell’s article that was printed with the title “Why our schools are failing your children:a teacher tells” but online as “Splashing cash won’t fix Australia’s broken education system”

photo (7)

Amongst other issues with our education system Johanna states:

But I believe ICT is in fact little more than a gimmick – and I know that the novelty of it as a tool for engagement is fast wearing off. In many cases, the study of ICT heightens the potential for distraction, is extremely inefficient, wastes time and quite simply is unnecessary – students do not need the ”world at their fingertips” all the time.

Read more:

This made me reflect on our graduation ceremony for our Year 6 class last week.  A mixed group of students, some academic, some mathematical, some artists, some writers, many sporting stars.   They left our school with an understanding of learning : learning that can be found from each other, from their teachers, and from many other sources.  They have been exposed to the skills that will help them learn, help them present their learning . They also left with strong literacy and mathematical skills.

Encouraged and not distracted as Ms O’Farrell believes by the “open-plan learning, iPads and interactive whiteboards” and multitude of other technology tools, these students explored their place in the global community.  Technology allowed them to connect, collaborate and learn with others, gathering perspectives and information difficult if not impossible without them.  They were taught to question what they read as information, or knowledge, is no longer sourced from one text book or reliable scholar.  Technology was ubiquitous – not a gimmick, but brought out when the purpose suited it.

Having the ‘world at their fingertips ‘ is the way these students live 24/7 and not allowing or expecting teachers to harness the value and seek teachable moments would be making education irrelevant.    Like Ms O’Farrell’s parents I did not have these tools when at I was at school, but education reflected the society that I lived in.  

Do we really want our students to be educated in a system that reflects a society of 10 – 20 – 30 – 40 years ago ? 



Checklist for consideration

digital-citizenshipAs I read through the items on this wonderful Infographic from Mia, I kept thinking that the title might be broadened.   I love the ideas, the thoughts expressed but I believe it applies to all our lives.  I have often heard and agreed that ‘Digital Citizenship’ is unnecessary as in fact is really just part of Citizenship in general.

In fact, this list could also just as easily apply to our use of technology tools in schools. Many schools have embarked on 1:1 programs with anywhere, anytime access to technology.  I wonder if it would help teachers and students to apply this list as a filter when determining the value of these programs.   It could also help us plan for opportunities to maximise the value of the equipment – see it as a checklist perhaps? 

Are we using technology at appropriate times? Are students able to make these choices?

Are we sifting through the tools, the resources and making good choices? Applying digital literacy skills?

Are we disseminating information or knowledge we create?

Are we taking the opportunity to create a forum for our own voice as well as those others?

Are we gaining perspectives by using technology to listen to other points of view?

Are we using technology to truly participate in a learning community in a two way manner or just consuming what is found there?

Do we limit the use to times when technology actually performs a task that is better?   Considering the SAMR  model, do we use tech for substitution purposes and not take advantage of the transformational potential?

I think it is a powerful list, definitely useful for citizenship but can be applied elsewhere as well.   

What do you think ?