Note: CATC (Computers Across the Curriculum) Camp is a Professional Learning Opportunity for Educators in Waterloo Region District School Board. About 125 teachers meet at the Kempenfelt Conference Centre each summer to share and learn about how to integrate technology into their curriculum and to use technology effectively in their practice. This year we celebrate their 25th year of learning in this way.
It goes like this: We eat a wonderful meal – often out on the patio – then the music beckons us to the auditorium for “News Time”. In a high energy fashion, we compete for prizes, we get updated on things like OSAPAC products, and most importantly, we get asked:
What else do you want to learn?
There are about 12 rooms that act as centres, with facilitators who scaffold learning around coding, makerspaces, online learning, GAFE tools, 1:1 Chromebooks, etc.
But when we identify something else we want to learn, it gets organized in minutes.
Today, someone asked to learn more about the online assessment tool, FreshGrade. After a few questions from the coordinator, a decision was made to host a session at 11:00 on online assessment tools in general. I volunteered to organize it.
Alison Bullock organized a GHO with a vendor rep and designed a Google form to collect questions. David Pope volunteered to share his experiences. Mark Carbone volunteered to speak about privacy of student information.
At 11:00, about 25 teachers arrived and we had a rich discussion about all of the considerations involved in choosing the right online assessment tool.
And it was just that fast.
We wanted to learn more about Assessment. Volunteers gathered the learner questions through open Google forms by tweeting the link. The experts were brought in physically or through GHO. A time and place was established.
We had a rich discussion, a screenshare demo of possibilities, and we walked away so much better informed about what is available, and the considerations we must make before implementation of online assessment tools.
This “identify the need – organize the resources – learn more” rhythm is becoming pervasive in professional learning. We now have the tools to respond to learning needs, not just with information, but with human resources, with organizing tools, and with synchronous learning tools.
Our classrooms can have this rhythm.
Interest -> questions -> organize -> bring in experts -> discuss.
A child who reads Moose (by Robern Munsch) with her parents at bedtime might have many questions about moose the next day. The teacher can organize a Google Hangout or Skype call with a moose expert to answer questions for the child.
We have the tools to respond immediately to learning needs, and to further develop interests and passions.
We need a new, responsive, rhythm for learning that has at its core, the ability to grow an individual’s motivation and desire to learn even more.
I am continuing to work my way through “Most Likely to Succeed“, the book by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith. On p. 223 of “Most Likely to Succeed”, the Tripod of Learning for the 21st Century is described.This is a summary of that thinking.
The three points of the tripod are: 1) content knowledge, 2) skill, and 3) the will to learn.
Of the three, will to learn (motivation) is seen as most critical, and the one most likely to be destroyed in the schools of today.
Content, for those with devices connected to the internet, is a free commodity (another reason why it is not okay that not everyone is connected).
Intrinsically motivated people are now free to learn new skills and content throughout their lives, because you can learn almost anything online.
The key question we need to ask is whether or not any given change we make to our education system, or to our teaching strategies, will increase student motivation for learning, and what evidence we will have to demonstrate this.
Motivation for learning does, of course, include engagement.
But do we also consider empowerment – the ownership of learning that involves persistence, knowing how to learn, knowing how we learn best, working hard to understand, sharing and gathering feedback, and self-discipline to keep at it?
Along with this, the ability to think critically, to communicate effectively in all modalities, to really collaborate (not just co-operate) and to use strategies for effective creative problem solving, are the survival skills our kids need in 2016.
It was an incredible honour yesterday, to hear Dr. Tony Wagner speak about his work in rethinking education for today. Being able to ask my question about how we work with a system that still defines graduates by 2-digit numbers, and ranks them individually, was enlightening and empowering.
“What does it mean to be an educated adult in the twenty-first century?”
We are entrenched in a digital economy. Time and time again, during the TELL 2016 conference, presenters expressed their frustration with how unaware educators seem to be with how fast change is happening.
TELL2016 presenter Carl Bull suggested that as comfortable educators, quite able to pay our mortgages, it is arrogant of us to ignore the reality that we have no idea how our students will achieve the same standard of living.
I deeply question why we continue to hire leaders and decision-makers in education who have no understanding of digital technologies. I wonder why the qualification courses our leaders are required to take have little mention of the importance of technology for learning.
I wonder why digital professional portfolios are seen as an “unfair advantage” instead of a non-negotiable part of the application process for leadership positions.
I wonder when we will finally see that the vast array of digital competencies are essential for leaders, in this public education system tasked with preparing our youth to thrive in a digital world that many education leaders cannot even imagine.
This year’s Technology Enabled Learning and Leading Symposium for Principals is wrapping up today. Yesterday we had the opportunity to have conversations with Dr. Tony Wagner about how the current pathways for our students are no longer leading to success.
Creating that Compelling Case for Change is so critical. We are in times of exponential change, yet for many, this change is invisible as we continue to do things as we have always done in our education system.
Earlier in the week, I had the pleasure of leading, with Mark Carbone, a group of PQP and SOQP instructors in an examination of why change is needed and how we might start considering our work in online spaces differently.
We have included the slides and some of our thinking below.
As we think about the needs of learners in online environments, there is one dichotomy that we often forget.
Some students take online courses because they need a credit or qualification for a life pathway, not because the want to learn.
I was first introduced to this thinking as a secondary online teacher , and I wrote about it on my old blog, School 2 Go, seven years ago .
I am returning to this dichotomy today as I think about how to differentiate the AQ I am currently teaching. Many of my teacher candidates have yet to find consistent work in the teaching profession in Ontario even though they have a wealth of experience. For some of them, this course is just a qualification needed to help them find work. They are busy raising families, doing other paid work and just trying to make it in a system that is so challenging for new educators.
How do I, as an instructor, challenge their thinking and model the kind of online learning we want for our students and teachers, while respecting their need to just “get through it”? How do I remain present in their learning from a distance without becoming a burden to achieving their goals?
This will be part of my personal inquiry going forward.
What if you are the only student at a high school needing a credit in SPH4U? eLearning might be your only option.
As educators, are we really saying that eLearning might not be for this student?
Or should we be saying, eLearning is just learning, and we will adapt our instructional methods to the learning needs of the student just as we would in any other public education setting.
Would we ever say, “Oh, classroom learning might not be for you because you have difficulty sitting in one place for 75 minutes”?
It’s time to challenge the myths around eLearning.
eLearning is NOT putting distance learning materials into an online format.
eLearning is NOT putting a course into an LMS.
eLearning is meeting the individual needs of every learner, just as we would in any other “classroom” in a publicly funded school.
Technology has come a very long way in the 20 years since eLearning began in Ontario. We can meet our students through the digital f2f on many different platforms. We use many synchronous and asynchronous digital tools to collaborate and plan and provide feedback.
Continuing the myth that eLearning is only suited to some students is holding us back in providing all of our students with options that allow them to design their own personal pathways to success.
It is not about students being well-suited for eLearning. In 2016, it is the eLearning that must be suited to the students – all students – and it is up to us as educators to ensure that it is.