Congratulations to all the Qatar Academy teachers for their sterling work through the SUNY COETAIL (Certificate of Educational technology and Information literacy) over the past two years. Their work can be viewed through http://thinklab.weebly.com/teachers.html. There is is much that educators can draw from this work.
The first Student-Led Conferences which focused on student eportfolios and their IB learning was a stunning success. Around 90% of Grade 6 through 8 parents made time to attend and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Students not only took pride in discussing their learning, they also spoke with authority on their understanding of IB Areas of Interaction and Learner Profile. They also provided ample evidence of how they are developing and applying such learning. This forms a strong basis for further development as independent, academic learners.
Well done to all teachers, administrators and students on their contributions as a true learning community.
Recently ThinkLab has been involved in working with Grade 8 students on using Photoshop as a general creative digital tool. Apart from their increased capacity to effectively take on higher-order tools / function, such as those provided through Photoshop and Flash, what struck me was the use of support documents. Previously students would use a paper adjunct to go through required steps. This time students had a choice of paper or video (Through Atomic Learning). Practically none chose paper, some made use of Atomic Learning, and most took my one demonstration (of the Burn and Dodge Tool) to experiment with its capabilities.
This movement away from any need for paper support was also evident when we worked with students on presenting their learning through use of word documentation. They preferred to highlight, snapshot, move, insert and organise all their information digitally.
This apparent move to a briccolage approach even for advanced packages means we have to possibly re-think our approach to skill development in such areas (particularly also when there is likely to be advanced expertise in the room where students have taken upon themselves to develop advanced skills).
This has not only environmental implications, but also for how information can be presented and processed.
Other issues to come out of our Photoshop 'explorations' include the increased engagement of boys in art through the increased capacity to 'touch-up' over than having to re-start.
Finally an interesting theoretical consideration is whether we are teaching and learning with such advanced packages in appropriate ways. Jonah Lehrer talks about the differences between knowing where to look (with confidence) versus preference for lock-step support reference materials. The former links to trial and error approaches where powerful schemas and learning refinements based on learning from mistakes can occur. Too much of the latter may well be indicative of learning shortcomings in the digital age. What then for those who digitally work purely from lock-step? Lehrer talks about possible negative responses that can arise, such as choking (explicit learning shortfall) or panic (implicit learning shortfall). We need to be aware and ready for such eventuations.
After twenty years using educational technologies in schools is the learning value of such use clear? We are discussing and clarifying this question and would appreciate any and all views on the matter.
As a starting point, the following list is provided
In mid February I attended the 21st Century Learning Conference at West Island School in Hong Kong. It was a well run and well patronized conference designed for teachers and school leaders. Everything from dig tools for school leaders, to changing learning dynamics, to examples teachers could take to their classrooms was showcased.
Keynote speakers were Stephen Heppell and David Warlick. As can be seen from the following quotes, they are very much into the changing dynamics of learning and teaching:
ThinkLab is currently involved in three inter-connected developments
The ThinkLab presentation at the conference reflects this through highlighting possible ways forward to strengthen a schools learning fabric. Ways that include
At our weekly teacher digital learning get together we conducted a social debate on the question: what balance should schools seek in their use of educational technologies? The three sides were (1) not enough use is being made of such technologies (2) there is too much use of digital technologies, and (3) the balance is just right. Observations that emerged included
The value of 1:1 for learning is a topical and potentially critical issue for any school. A good insight into value, values and issues can be found in M. Dunleavy, S. Dexter, W.F. Heinecke (2007) What added value does a 1:1 student to laptop ratio bring to technology-supported teaching and learning?
ThinkLab is involved in translating some of this into action. This includes creating a curriculum bank of tasks that display characteristics of a good task / project for learning in a 1:1 environment? Such characteristics can involve:
We would be interested in your comments or additions.
Welcome back to the New Year.
Here at ThinkLab we have been working with teachers through a formal Masters program (provided through the State University of New York: Buffalo) to raise their expertise, understanding, and most important of all, their leadership in all things edtech.
This week the teachers will be presenting to their fellow teacher/students their area of interest. This will be based around the questions
Check out the Teachers links for the list of interest areas.
Exciting times all round.
One of the pillars of ThinkLab is that students should be included and valued in every aspect of a school's approach to digital learning. This has seen a student support group (known as 'Fanar' or 'Lighthouse') developed to provide support across areas as diverse as decision-making, teacher professional learning, and at-hand classroom support for students and teachers. Communication is facilitated through a Virtual Learning Environment, Moodle.
Last week a new section was added. As part of the Grade 8 Technology course on Emerging Technologies a group of students created a 'Mac-gang' group to support the educational use of the 1:1 Macs. Part of this is a web site where students keep the school community informed on latest technology developments. Topical news includes RemoteViewer and Firesheep/Balcksheep. Check out the blog here or through the STUDENTS ThinkLabTab. Well done guys