Masterclass 2013 – It’s about Learning

The term 21st Century Learning is bandied about to the extent that we as teachers either view it as a catch phrase that we can pin a multitude of  beneficial approaches to learning or in many cases attach the evils of what is going wrong in our laptop programs. It is time we get over that term, we are after all already 13 years into the century, and really start engaging in what the term and others like it (contemporary learning ) is really challenging teachers to do.

During the keynote speaker at this year’s Masterclass, there was a quote by researcher David Warlick that struck a particular chord with me.

“No generation in history has ever been so thoroughly prepared for the industrial age.” It is so true – every level of government in Australia is asking us to test many times in meaningless ways (as one presenter pointed out – an airline pilot is not required to do a multiple choice test – well at least I hope not), we still have classrooms set up in rows, students ask me continuously to just write the information on the board as that is how they learn best! Is it!!!  REALLY!!! or is it that this is how they perceive they learn best – are they learning, are they thinking from this type of instruction. Why do joeys boys feel such a pressure to get the right answer from the teacher and then feed it back to me in a variety of tasks – often not requiring a lot of analysis, thought or creativity. External exam, an unwillingness to go out on a limb and think for themselves, its safe (at the moment), they know they can achieve great grades this way but are we preparing them for life and employment beyond joeys.

Yet I go to conferences, I read a lot and most of what I read says that we should be fostering a love of learning (let’s face it as Lisa Simpson said in one episode  – why should I study when I can find the answer on Google in 6seconds) . There’s a gap here and one that frightens me a lot. Ian Jukes from the Fluency project ( ) threw down the gauntlet to change not for change sake but as an economic imperative. Think of the jobs going from Holden, Factories whole stream of blue collar jobs disappearing. now is it is the turn of the more white collar jobs – tax returns, routine medical scans are all being outsourced to foreign lands. He mentioned a site that Odesk (  Where you can hire administrative support, web developers, creative artists, writers, translators and the list goes on. Post a job and you have hundreds of applicants in 30 minutes. Even the potential of 3 D printer means that the worlds leading surgeons can now be brought in to consult into any hospital in the world. Science fiction? – NO It’s Happening. With Odesk you can pay the perosn through the system, montior their workflow (so you KNOW they are doing the work etc).

Wonderful Opportunities but also so very very challenging for our economies, our students in the not too distant future.

Does this mean we give up explicit instruction – NO, does this mean that we do away with the teacher as central to the learnign process NO. but it MUST have implications on the way we teach and it is time we all think about what learning needs to take place, how we enrich the learnign experience, what are the values of a life long learner that we need to impart and empower our students so that they too can be part of the solution that the changes in society is currently throwing us.


Ian Jukes: The 21st Century Fluency Project – Knowlegde Retention

Again ideas from Ian Jukes:
Every time I discuss the effective use of ICT in the digital classroom with someone, I try to convey the gut feeling and passion that I KNOW it makes a difference, I know it excites, enthuses the students, I know that it empowers them. But with the distracyive nature of the technology currently at Joeys, it is an converstaion that does not truly inspire.

There are two issues here – one is for the most part we are replacing the pen and paper with the computer. Other than the fact it saves trees and for those few organised students a much better way for them to function (not having to combine the two), THIS does not excite. What we need to do is create learning that is different. This is starting to happen – the boys in Economics and Business Studies who are creating online business websites or the recent integrated study between RE, Science and Mathematics where students achieved way beyond expectation by creating a wide range of artefacts from iphone apps, websites, prezi presentations, brochures and much more ( most of them several items for the ONE project.)

Now to the key – did they enjoy the activites YES, were they engaged YES, will it change their final test grade compared to those students who learned in a more traditional way – well according to Ian Jukes Probably NOT. BUT here is the key. A study done in the USA between 2000 kids (1000 –  traditional learning control group and 1000 doing inquiry based learning)  showed that yes in fact for the test immediately after the learning the score results did not change much, but, one year later they were tested again and the retention rate of the content was 15% for the first  group (traditional learning) while the other inquiry learning group retained 70% of the content.

This new group also learnt social skills of collaboration, higher order thinking skills, increased their digital literacy and were engaged.

To me, there is really no question as to which one we should choose…

Ian Jukes: The 21st Century Fluency Project

At this conference, hearing more about the Fluency project has been one of the gems for me. Ian Jukes has presented several sessions all inspiring and challenging. The session yesterday was “Literacy is not enough” He explored the idea that in the digital world it is vital that students become fluent not just literate. The best way to to think about it is in relation to languages – if you are literate you can read the language and cope well in the foreign language environment but being fluent in that language is a completely different matter. We have to strive for students to be fluent – know all the protocals, netiquette, curators etc for them to be truly ready for the work environment.

Presentation 2: Why Bother with Social Media

In this session I look at why we should seriously consider Social Media. Yes Facebook, Twitter etc often has a bad name but as Ross has stressed it is not the tool that is the problem. Brother Michael Green in the latest MSA Newsletter said:

—”As Educators we (should) intuitively go into the territory of the young, because it’s where they are”
Yet for many reasons most teachers just do not want to go where the students are. This session looked at safe “closed doors” social media solutions so you can encourage student engagement and learning in a social media environment that is safe.

Finding the right app

Here are some sites/ apps that will help you find the best apps for your us in your personal life and in the classroom.

Discovr Apps – you write an app that you liek or a idea – mindmapping etc and then you get a diagram that floats and you click on the sub topics and drill down until you find the one you like. Available from the app store.

Appsfire deals – this is the app version of the hot deals we sign onto through email. It lists “hot deals for the say ” ie the ones that a free for the day. You can download apps for free try them out and see how you go. Have been told that when you update them – this is also free. One way of trying out apps without cost. They are not all education of course. Available on the App store

Appitic Website – want to find educational ipad apps that are listed either via blooms taxonomy, NETS students standards, themes etc GO to this gem of a site.

Scooptit – Recommended ipad apps curated site giving you ipads apps…


Who’s watching WHO

Came across a firefox plugin on the weekend that is a bit scary. An plug in is a little app that joins with your browser in this case Firefox and does things – easy way to tag photos for sites like flickr, record information, click and search etc. In this case Collusion is a plug in that tracks who is following your activity on the web.

We know that when we search for Turkey and flights on the web – suddenly you get adds in facebook or your searches. Many times this is great – I like that it sometimes know what I want. Sharing information when you know it is being given then that is okay – the background bots can  suggest books, movies for me . BUT come Behavioural tracking.

Watch this 6 minute TED talks which will give you some insight. NOT that we can really do much about it – but make you think about what information you are giving away either voluntarily or involuntarily.

My collusion map after about 2 hours on net looked like this…and I only went to about 1/3 of these sites. ( blue ones I went to – others – no idea they were tracking me)

Collusion mapping


mylearn Conference

Have been lucky enough to be part of this conference – not that we are going to mobile devices such as a tablet or ipad but we need to stay abreast of the thinking and what is happening so that we can make informed decisions about the future use of technology in the schools.

Having an opportunity to explore the ipad/tablet technology and philosophies, tips and tricks with teaching these devices as well as the thinking that goes behind as to why people would want to go ipad/tablet. Yes getting caught up in the hype…I want one ( actually bought one very early). They are a very enticing and exciting technological experience. and I do mean experience one of the very early ipad reviews when ipad1 came around was that it is no longer a tool but it is n experience the “relationship” with the technology is very different to that of those using a laptop or desktop computer. People get REALLY excited when they acquire one. Ipad is clearly the forerunner in education circles. The idea that any app must meet apple’s requirements means that you KNOW it is going to work.  I asked at the conference to those who had done their own investigations and the answer was that ipad was their choice was mainly because of this experience and that it was idiot proof.

There are downside such as no usb connection, no flash (but people do say this IS being replaced by html5), and how it fits in with current infrastructure in a school. WHICH IS A BIG ISSUE and cannot be discounted. BUT ultimately any decisions on whether what platform to purchase, MUST be made on what you WANT to DO with the device. This is where the real dilemma comes in. Most of the time, in secondary schools, students are gathering information either from the web or in class – so ideally a tablet/ipad solution is the way to go . But what about the growing interest in podcasts, videos etc. AGAIN an ipad and to a lesser degree a tablet have hundreds of apps that can do the job. Here it becomes a situation where the teacher says I want a video on this topic. NOT I want you do it in a particular application. Each student could ultimately choose their own app to develop the evidence of their learning and the focus IS on the learning. But then you have specialist areas or topics where the teacher does want the student to show HOW they use a particular piece of software – hence the dilemma.

Ultimately I think schools will support the “BYOT or BYOD” bring your own device/technology. It makes economic and learning sense. We replicate what is happening in real life – you have the iphone or android – do a quick email, check an answer on the net, check your calendar, then you have the ipad next to your couch and check things out quickly – write that letter  ( or ins school’s case – notes, searching, summaries etc)  and then when you want to do heavy number crunching or digital creation you use your laptop. It is how the world works.

Second dilemma – this idealistic goal does not take into account what must be a logistical nightmare for all involved from a technical point of view. Most schools I suspect primarily from a technical need encourage a one size fits all  – be it desktop, laptop or ipad/tablet. From a technical perspective THIS way does make perfect sense – the work done by ICT divisions all over the country is often thankless and very very stressful so going one way or limiting the mix in a school makes sense also.

Back Channelling in the Classroom

This has to be one of the “wow”  moments in my teaching. It is when you give students the tools to comment, discuss and enriched the classroom encvironment by making short comments while the class is going on.

It gives them a voice, the teacher KNOWS what they are thinking so can guide any misunderstandings. encourages them to stay focussed and they enjoy it..Win on all counts.

Check out this Powerpoint to see all about it: backchanneling

tools include:

Todaysmeet –



as well as many others…

Learning Spaces

There has been for quite a few years now of creating learning spaces that are more suited for 21st Century Learning. This conference is abuzz with presentations that Learning spaces really do make a difference. Stephen Harris  from Nothern Beaches Christian School is really out there as far as design. He points out that we should think of the spaces that inspire us and then fashion our schools to reflect these spaces. Check out the Scil website for a bit fo an idea. Basically the premise behind much of the talk about Learning Spaces is to go back to the Campfire model. ( Article written by Thornburg – Campfires in Cyberspace – . Backed with this Stephen Harris reported that students improve their learning outcomes when they are comfortble. Think about innovative and thriving companies like Microsoft / Google – I am told they have spaces and are given time to be creative and constructive in their thinking… Why not for our students? Back to Campfires philosphy – According to theorists,  we need spaces for direct explicit instruction (the campfire),   collaboration and shared thought and knowledge construction (the watering hole), a space to reflect, think and internalise (the cave) and a place to celebrate (the mountain top). Some of these need a rethinking of classroom design others can be achieved posters on wall, digital spaces to “display” and show the artefacts created. (there is even paint cassed ideaspaint which allows students to write on ANY surface – think of the collaboration possibilities if this happened at Joeys)  Again when I thinkof  how I learn – it is not sitting in rows and listening – it is discussing, exploring ideas, going off by myself then linking back to my mentors and peers. How do you learn? What spaces do you work in best?  Should it be different for  our students  in our classrooms? Makes you think!