Authentic Audiences / Authentic Learning……what a crazy idea!

One of the biggest challenges that we all face is the way to make learning as authentic as we can. I am a big believer in authentic learning and to be honest, do not have much time for anything that does not relate to my kids world. The kids can even pick it now. One of the first things they ask me when we are investigating something new is ‘How does this relate to my world?’ Sometimes I find it hard to find an answer. The other day we were looking at classifying triangles (which I see is still part of the new national year seven mathematics curriculum….but we wont go there) and one of my kids said ‘Mr Proud, when am I going to use this?’ To be honest, I struggled to come up with an answer. I am also a big fan of the work that Alan November does and his whole notion about kids with authentic audiences and real world purpose, will be more engaged in the process of learning.
So where am I going with all of this mind dump? Over the past four weeks, my students have been playing the Australian Stock Exchange student game. For those who are not aware of what the game consists of, students are given $50 000 to invest into a list of 100 companies from the ASX over a ten week period. The object of the game is to make as much money as possible and there are actual prizes. The ASX does a great job providing a whole bunch of educational resources to help develop student understanding of these deep concepts.
Whilst I thought that the kids would get into this investigation, I have been blown away by the level of enthusiasm that they have demonstrated for the task. I have parents telling me that their children are going home and watching the final financial forecasts on the news and getting up early to watch Kochie on Sunrise to get any finance tips. They have been blogging about their experiences on the Learning Place and are currently writing their half way summary reports to be presented to the McDowall Millionares board to be assessed over the September break.
How does this relate to authentic learning? The amount of understanding that these kids are grasping onto through this investigation is unbelievable. Whilst I realise that I am in a perfect situation with 1-1 laptops, I have done something similar in a non 1-1 environment before. The kids basically beg me at 10am to let them work on it (as the market opens at 10am) and it is not unusual for kids to be sneaking a look at their portfolio during other learning times (of course I don’t encourage this…) and lunch times. We have one particular student who sees himself as a bit of a wheeler and dealer and he has made contact with a stock broker. He organised for our class to receive a daily email newsletter (worth about $500 / 4 months) for free outlining trading strategies. They are seeking out avenues and justifying their decisions along the way. It is authentic because they are learning about decision making, wealth creation and other various forms of things.
So if I could only make everything (including my triangle classification) authentic to my kids…..all of my battles would be won!

Now it is time to put one of my crazy ideas into place!

So now it is time to put my money where my mouth is. I am going to make this project happen! As noted in a previous blog post, I am looking to start a space where students can create content for other kids from around world to help students understand key concepts that are being explained.

So therefore I give you 25 students from my class who are keen to create content for you to use with your kids next term. I will aim to have them complete the content by the end of this term so that you can use easily and seamlessly next term.

On another note, my class is investigating Space next term and I would love it if any of your kids could create content to help my kids understand key areas. They would love to have your kids add value to our learning environment and seek input from outside of the boundaries of our four walls.

Drop me an email at ashleyproud@gmail.com  or leave a comment on this blog if you are interested in making this happen. I think that it is an exciting opportunity for students around our world to interact and communicate with each other

Do we have a professional and moral obligation to share?

Ok people, I have a confession to make – My name is Ashley and I love sharing knowledge with others and having people share my knowledge with me. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, I was reflecting on this notion today.

People who know me know that I love to hear stories.  I love it when somebody shares something that they are doing in their classroom.  Even if I don’t think it ‘adds value’ to my life, it is still fun to hear.  I am also an ‘idea manipulator’.  I will see or hear about an idea that somebody else is implementing with their kids and modify it to suit my needs.

But my question is do we have a moral and professional obligation to share? I know that some people find this very difficult.  I feel that as educators we do.  We should be sharing out wealth of knowledge and resources to aid the wider educational community to have kids do great things.

I would be interested to hear people’s thoughts on this.

Ideas hit me in the craziest of places!

This is a blog that I posted on my employers internal blogging service.  I thought that I would share it with my wider PLN community to get your thoughts on my idea as well.  This could work people – how awesome would it to be to have a kid sitting in a class in China using a resource that a kid in Australia has created to help them with their learning.  I know I mention some specific tools that my employer provides but it should be easy enough to get going outside of my walled garden.  Kind of like a Kahn Academy but student driven.  Anyway, here it is…..

As I was being a diligent husband and hanging out the washing this morning, a thought came into my head.  As this thought took up a lot of brainpower, I didn’t have a lot of space left to think about much else and it kind of consumed my thought processes.  It was a beautiful day outside and I was totally consumed by this notion.

So what was it you asked? I was thinking about the new Learning Place and virtual spaces and how I could use them.  As you all know I am a huge fan of Alan November and his work around student created learning experiences and my man Eric Marcos from Mathtraintv.  My big catch phrase that I have been spouting out lately is ‘It’s all about the community of we, not the community of me!’  For some reason that got stuck in my head and an idea popped it.  It doesn’t happen very often and it was an exciting experience.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if kids could make videos on a range of educational topics that they were interested in?  Staff could add their ideas up to a common sharing place from around Queensland and kids (I know mine would) could create / research resources that could be used in classrooms to help other kids understand stuff? I know my kids would be keen to do this and it should be pretty easy in the new version of Learning Place to make this happen.

So does anybody else see value in this or is it just me dreaming up crazy stuff that will never work?

Home and Away – is it setting a good example for 21st Century Learning?

As those who follow me on Twitter are aware, one of my many addictive devices that I have is my love of reality television and old episodes of Home and Away and Sons and Daughters.  Some may love chocolate, others alcohol.  My weakness is 80’s TV.  I am really a sad sad man.

The other day, my favourite Summer Bay High Principal (Donald Fisher) was delivering a lesson to his class.  All of his students were sitting in rows and facing the front.  He was reading directly out of a text book and the kids were not engaged or interacting with him at all.  As I was watching this occur, my first thought was “Geez these kids look bored,” and my second thought was “Shane Roberts would have a nervous breakdown if he had to teach in these conditions!”  On Friday, one of my students came to me and said “You would have hated teaching at Summer Bay High Mr Proud.”  When I asked Jack why, he simply said to me “Because everything is so unlike what we do here in 7D1”

Like many others, I also enjoyed the show Summer Heights High, which aired on the ABC a couple of years ago.  For those who haven’t seen this comedy, Summer Heights High is a Logie Award-winning[1] Australian television mockumentary series written by and starring Chris Lilley. It is a parody of high school life epitomised by its three protagonists: effeminate and megalomaniacal “Director of Performing Arts” Mr G; self-absorbed, privileged teenager Ja’mie King; and disobedient, vulgar Tongan student Jonah Takalua. All played by Lilley, the characters never interact. It lampoons Australian high school life and many aspects of the human condition and is filmed in a documentary style, with non-actors playing supporting characters.  One of the main characters in this show was Jonah.  Jonah unfortunately had learning difficulties and special needs.  He was regularly shown working in group situations which enabled his learning to successfully take place due to the fact that his learning style was catered for.  Jonah’s culture heritage was acknowledged and things were put in place to enable him to learn if he wanted to.

But I digress.  Everything about Summer Bay High from Home and Away, smacks of traditional schooling.  Even now, in 2011, their classrooms are still the same in design and feel as it was back in the mid 80’s.  The characters have changed but the rooms have not.

When will the producers of Home and Away get aboard the transformationallearning bandwagon and start demonstrating the good practice that 21st century teachers deliver?  I have never seen a piece of technology in a Summer Bay High School classroom, not even the trusty old overhead projector!  They really are doing us an injustice!

How much longer can we deny kids opportunities?

So to those people who know me or have read some of my blog entries, you are aware that I am a very student centred type of a teacher.  I want my kids to be active participants in their learning journey, not just passive receipents.  I also do not want my skills or lack of understanding of certain concepts or ways of learning to influence the 25 young minds that I am responsible for throughout 2011. 

So what am I up on my soapbox about?  Like every teacher, I have my strengths and weaknesses and I am very open about my weaknesses.  I am the least creative person in the world and anybody that has any creativity inspires me.  I try and provide my kids with different types of creative experiences and make the ‘boring stuff’ fun.  For example, one of our tasks last week was to use Toondoo to create cartoons of the definitions of our spelling words.  These were then placed into a wiki within our Virtual Classroom. This week we are going to use the same logic but create movies.  I am realy looking forward to seeing what they come up with.  
 
But what about the kids in the other classes around me?  Are they getting the same learning experiences? When I talk to people about my classroom and my style of teaching, I use the saying ‘hook to capture’ often.  Using technology is not always the best solution to get kids to understand concepts but if it works, am I not doing an injustice to the students under my direction?

Last year I worked collobratively on a poetry unit of work with Arlene Smerherst.  I openly admit that I am not great at teaching poetry and was able to have Arlene work virtually with my children and use her expertise and skill set to increase my students understanding.  This process really excites me and things like the Kahn Academy (video blow) floats my boat. 

So my question is: why can’t we have a community of learning where kids are responsible for accessing ‘experts’ (eg teachers) to help them along there learning journey and how can we encourage teachers and students to be a part of this?

Enjoy the video

My students are trying to make a difference to the world that they live in!

Quick note: I have been very neglectful of this blog and will get back into it.  I appreciate all the feedback that I have been given.  I am now looking for your help.

If you have read any of my previous blogs or follow me on Twitter, I am all about kids and learning and making connections to the world that they live in.  My kids have inspired me and motivated me already this year and my group in my 1-1 laptop class were awesome. 

Like every man and his dog who teaches years 3,5,7 or 9 we are madly trying to get the kids ready for the NAPLAN test.  If you have been living under a rock for the past year, you would not be aware that the writing genre for this year is a persuasive text.  I must admit that I am a bit uncomfortable with this genre.  I had built up my skillset in teaching the narrative genre (of course I don’t teach for the test – insert snigger here) and was very confident in teaching its elements and getting the job done.  Persuasion on the other hand has been a different matter. 

We have been exposing the kids to as many different forms of persuasive texts and getting them to do the usual deconstruct / reconstruct / improve / analyse / create / panic / have a go type of things.  We have been texts about various things such as school uniforms, homework and the interesting topic of ‘Should Australia have capital punishment?’ There work has been fantastic so far.

We are doing a unit of work on government.  The other day I had one of those ‘light bulb’ moments when I said “This is getting boring – how can we link it to the kids world?”  After pondering that question for about 5 minutes (it takes me that long to process things) I came up with the idea that the kids could write about a relevant government issue that they are passionate about and email a member of parliament about their concerns trying to persuade them to see their point of view.  We created a wiki within our virtual classroom and the kids created new pages and wrote out their persuasive text.  Other students from within our learning environment then read each others work and provided feedback on areas in which they could be improved upon.  It worked brilliantly!

Whilst this was a fantastic opportunity, I still thought it was a little bland.  Then yesterday as we were walking around Parliament House, one of my darlings said “Mr Proud, we could create an online petition about our issue and get people to sign it.  Our arguement would have more strength if more people agreeded with us?”  I thought it was an awesome idea and set the wheels in motion to make it work.

We learnt yesterday at Parliament House that anybody can create a petition within the government website and have it published there.  I thought that this was the solution but upon further investigation, I realised that it was a complicated and hard process.  I told the kids and they were a bit down.  They were all pumped up and really looking forward to creating a significant difference to the world that they live in.

Then another brainwave hit me – I remembered the awesome presentation that Kristine Kolpekine presented at last years eLearning conference and I signed a petition to get her grandfather recognised as a significant person.  I simply ‘stole’ her idea and manipulated and made it my own.  My kids used a free online petition creation tool and we used it in a safe and ethical manner. 

Then we started to brainstorm ways of increasing our ‘value’ to our petition eg how can we get more people to see it.  Various ideas such as signing each others, asking teachers to sign them.  One kid then said “I am going to email this to my dad and get everybody at his work to sign it!”  Others thought that this was a brilliant idea and I even heard the dreaded Facebook word being mentioned by some kids under their breath. 

Below is links to my kids petitions.  If it is not to much to ask, could you please take 5 – 10 minutes and add your signatures / leave a comment at the end of as many as you can.  They really are trying to make a difference!

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/mcdowall11/

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/mcdowall12/

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/mcdowall1/

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/mcdowall19/

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/mcdowall14/

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/mcdowall15/

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/mcdowall10/

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/mcdowall6/

Please note: obviously everybody has not finished this yet and I will edit the list as it is updated.  I really appreciate the fact that you are taking some time to read them and add ‘value’ to their idea.  They have loved this tasked and worked really well. 

Nothing like trying to make a difference to the world that we live in! If you could leave me a comment below, that would be appreciated as well.

Powerpoint – is it really evil?

imagesSo I like so many of us out there have just about had enough of being presented with something on a screen and having it read word for word to me.  It is really an insult on my intelligence as I am:

  1. 34 years old and can read
  2. Quite well educated (I went to university)
  3. Easily bored and distracted.

There have been so many occasions when I have been to a seminar or presentation, and the person at the front flashes up a slide full of text and then proceeds to read it word for word off the screen.  What are they thinking?  Do they think that I can not read?  I may be not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I am capable of reading.  One of the first things that I said to my kids this year was ‘PowerPoint is evil – use it wisely’.  We thought that we had found a solution in Prezi but my employer decided to block it (and rightfully so if the terms and conditions state it is for use by over 18 years) and we were stuck.  The reliance of the ‘right click generation’ on Powerpoint is huge and I am constantly trying to steer kids away from using it.

We have a lull in time between genres.  At the start of this term, we were working on poetry and it was an outstanding success.  Later on this term we will be working on Argumentative Essay writing (which the kids seem to enjoy) and have a period of time at our school where we come up with different genres to explore.

I really wanted to get the kids writing ‘Choose Your Own Adventures’ stories that I used to love as a kid.  When I asked the kids if they have ever wrote one, the blank faces staring back at me from my digital natives were concerning.  We explored some examples of these stories and the kids started to get into it.  Of course they wanted to produce it digitally and I had a brain wave at the exact time as one of my kids.

“Mr Proud – you are always telling us that Powerpoint is evil but couldn’t we use it to create hyperlinks between slides and produce our stories using it?” one of them asked.  I thought about it for a minute and stated “Yes that sounds good.”  As quick as a flash one of my bright sparks pipped up with “Didn’t you tell us that PowerPoint was evil?  You must have been wrong.  It can’t be evil if we can use it in this way!”  I quickly climbed back into my hole and mumbled something under my breath about being a content creator and get on with your work.

So there you go – my personal journey into this evil land is happening as we speak.  I will share some of the examples with you when they are finished.  Their planning looks fantastic and they are taking great joy in proving me wrong.

Is PowerPoint evil?  Not in this circumstance……..I guess!

PLN – is it personal learning network or a professional learning network?

personal_social_networkOver the past week I attended the outstanding eLearning expo at the Gold Coast Convention Centre. I was lucky enough to be presenting a session with Arlene Smertherst on some work we did on our poetry unit within my classroom which was an outstanding success. The conference ran over two days and due to my family situation it was not possible for me to go down on the Sunday night. I drove from Brisbane to the Gold Coast on Monday morning and left on Tuesday afternoon (before the outstanding closing key note address from Jess Oram and Adrian Greig) and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.

As stated in an earlier blog post, I journeyed into the world of Twitter just over 12 months ago and first heard about this term PLN. It really excited me that I could colloborate with educators from all around the world. Last year I was relatively new to the world of PLN and walked around the conference like a deer in the headlights. Over lunch I didn’t network with anybody but tweeted a whole bunch. As I entered my final session with Shane Roberts and Jonathon Nalder I sheepishly introduced myself and was pleased to find out that they knew who I was and were warm and welcoming. My next experience with ‘face to face’ colloboration was with Joseph Perkins, when I had the oppportunity to go up and visit his 1-1 laptop program.  I was also pleased to find that he was a ‘real person’ and not just a figment of my imagination. 

I was really jealous that some of my PLN got together on the Sunday night before this years expo and was hoping to meet most of my PLN and made sure that I registered for sessions that some of them were running.  Shane came strolling past me early on Monday morning with Kathleen MACCOLL , Tanya SUTTON and Jodie Reik.  After the inital introductions, I felt very comfortable and we started talking like old friends.  It was actually a really weird experience and one that I enjoyed.

But as the two days progressed a key question entered my mind: was I have a professional learning network experiene or was it a personal learning one?  Or was it a combination of them both?  I problary am learning towards the second one.  I ‘hung out’ with my PLN over breakfeast, lunch and dinner but our converstaions over lunch about learning and pedagogy and it was stimulating and thought provoking.  I personally wouldn’t have changed it for the world.  Actually I would have.  I would have made a firm commitment with my PLN about on ongoing commitment to each other (it sounds like a wedding proposal) and our professional learning journey together.  As Tanya put so elequently in her latest blog post, networking allows for so many more fantastic learning and professional experiences to occur. 

Just remember people – a colloborative marathon people will go quicker than an isolated 100m sprint!

The creativity of some people

People being creative really amazes me, as I believe that I am the least creative person in the world.  Those who follow this blog are aware that I am a podcast tragic and one that I regularly look forward to is The EdTech Crew.  Last week they were lucky enough to have Eric Rosenbaum who works on some exciting projects at MIT.  I was truly amazed at his work.  If you haven’t already listened to the latest podcast, make sure that you do.  Here is a YouTube clip of one of his latest ideas: