Change Agent of the Day: Gary Stager on Seymour Papert

Happy hump day, change agents!

Wednesday is the hump in the work week, the day when we start looking toward the weekend ahead and to consider what we can reasonably accomplish with the rest of our work week given where we stand at midweek and what we expect of ourselves – and others expect of us – on both the work and family fronts.

Assessing where we currently stand on the hypothetical “change scale” is the subject of today’s brief post.

In highlighting “What’s Transforming Teaching and Learning Today,” as I strive to do in this virtual space as regularly as possible, I have neglected to mention the efforts of one particularly important and often overlooked change agent who has a lot to say about where we currently stand: Dr. Seymour Papert.

Much earlier than most, Papert embraced epistemological pluralism and the empathetic notion that computers can empower each individual learner to find ways best suited to him/herself to learn new skills and material.

As Papert predicted, though, the traditional unidirectional teaching paradigm – lecture based, paper-wasting, and privileging primarily those with the courage to raise their hands for their all-knowing teacher – is alive and well in our schools. What exists in schools today is primarily sporadic and idiosyncratic technology integration more geared toward Substitution and Augmentation rather than actual Modification or Redefinition on Ruben Puentadura’s SAMR model.

In his TEDx talk entitled “Seymour Papert: Inventor of Everything,” Gary Stager offers a wonderful overview of Papert’s thoughts and body of work, and contemplates “the backlash against modernity and the things that are in the best interests of kids.” Stager defines constructionism, addresses the connections between the thoughts of Papert and John Dewey, and offers case studies of this “backlash against modernity.”

On hump day, I celebrate Gary Stager for highlighting Papert’s important contributions to the change movement. It leaves me with the feeling that I have much to accomplish before taking a weekend rest. Seymour Papert: Inventor of Everything

BYOD: Vision, Rationale, Rollout

The work world is increasingly moving toward Bring Your Own Device models. Success in college and life beyond will be determined to no small degree by a student’s ability to adapt to different (technology infused) environments, and to use the technology in his/her hands to efficiently collaborate, communicate, create, and think critically and analytically. Schools are increasingly moving in this direction, as well. Here are some reasons why BYOD makes sense, and the steps and considerations schools should consider as they contemplate a move in the BYOD direction.

Celebrating Gibault Catholic High School

GCHS Logo

GCHS Logo

A good deal has already been written about the end of snow days at Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo, IL.

As it should be.

Certainly, kids should be kids, and they should go out and play in the snow.

I suspect, though, that even on elearning snow days, they will find the time.

The incentive toward greater student engagement and productivity while working in an elearning environment is certainly influenced by the deployment of effective online pedagogy aligned with Bill Pelz’s principles.

Productivity in particular, though, is probably most influenced by the simple pull of fun in the outdoors, or perhaps the pull of the sofa and a video game. For adolescents, in particular, knowing that you’re confined to a single space for a given time – the bells at school, the four walls of a few different classrooms – can demotivate. The current paradigm also doesn’t allow for high school students to start the process of making difficult choices such as the ones they will face in college or the work world – whether to put work before play, and how best to manage time.

Gibault’s move toward eteaching and elearning in virtual spaces on snow days represents a significant step toward fulfilling the potential of technology to transform teaching and learning to better suit the needs of a modern and highly mobile – and sometimes immobilized – world.

It should be celebrated, studied, and refined.

Gibault is helping its students  prepare for participation in a world which will require a high tech skill set as well as a  lifelong learner, work-on-the-go mindset.

It both acknowledges the motivational sway of flexible schedules and makes the most of the hardware and software available today, technology already the palms of so many hands and facilitating a paradigm shift toward anytime, anyplace learning in virtual spaces.

From the “Snow Day Simulation” rollout to actual full-on implementation, Gibault has proceeded thoughtfully, and initial signs of student and teacher buy in are apparent.

Soon, if not already, the rollout evaluation and the harder questions will come. What kinds of skills and content are being cultivated and delivered on those elearning snow days? How profound is the collaboration between peers in the virtual spaces deployed? To what degree is formative assessment, statistical sampling, and scaffolding happening in My Big Campus? Is there a philosophical framework for the whole enterprise, such as Pelz’s principles of effective online pedagogy?

But today, I celebrate Gibault Catholic High School for making important strides toward fulfilling the promise of technology, and toward preparing its students to compete in a global economy and a technology-infused society.

I celebrate the students of Gibault for seizing the opportunity their school has given them to learn WITH technology, and to view their computers, tablets, and smartphones as cognitive tools rather than as simple entertainment-delivery systems.

Just don’t forget to play in the snow some, too.

QR Code Adventures on the Small Screen

20140120-130742.jpgToday’s post expands on my previous link to Joe Dale’s thorough and thoughtful look at the trend toward QR Codes in the classroom.

QR codes are particularly relevant to those of us fortunate enough to work in 1:1 tablet teaching and learning environments. If you are among those, please proceed! If you prefer to go directly to my Explain Everything/YouTube video rather than to read, please simply scroll to the bottom of this post.

First, you don’t need a projector to make the most of this approach to active learning environments and potential differentiation. You can print your QR codes and supply each “pod” or group with its own QR code printout. Those codes could link to the same or different sites/activities, and they could link to some Google Forms for statistical sampling or self evaluation purposes. With regard to the latter, among the QR codes that live in a folder on my desktop are those that link to Google Forms allowing students to reflect on their class performance or to view samples of stellar student work from weeks or even years past. Responses on Google Forms are automatically compiled in tidy spreadsheets. This is a huge time saver!

If you’re like me and try to save yourself those trips to the copy machine (not to mention help save the planet through reduced paper use), then you will likely want to embed your QR codes into a Powerpoint or Keynote file. Kids can either get out of their seats and scan, or scan from practically wherever they are seated.

If you use DropBox to deliver assignments to your students, you can get the URL to that file simply enough. Click on a file in DropBox and the link to the right of that file. Click “Get Link” and, presto, you have the URL copied to your clipboard.

Next, head to any Web-based QR code generator if you’re on your laptop, or simply use your QR code reader on your iPad to generate a code. I use http://www.qrstuff.com/

Download the QR code generated, project, and you have just taken a small but significant step toward paperless, active teaching and learning environments. 

A Plea for a (paper.li) Holiday Gift!

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With the holidays already upon us this will likely be my final post of 2013. I hope that each of you who has visited my new blog this year has a safe and fun-filled holiday season!

Today’s post focuses on paper.li and also serves as a call for your support in building an invaluable online resource for those who share my passion for a profound paradigm shift in education. Consider it your holiday gift to me!

Paper.li – which describes itself on its Twitter page as “The curation platform that enables you to turn Twitter, Facebook & RSS into online papers and treat readers to fresh news, daily” – has considerable potential to enrich professional development and to facilitate dialogue in teaching and learning, as well as to help our students stay abreast of the very latest developments in whatever they may be researching for their senior project (K-12) or thesis (undergraduate/graduate student).

Based on your own source selections, paper.li pulls online content tailored to your specific interests and passions into a nice-looking cyber journal. You simply curate through your source selections, which you can edit at any time as you discover new and better sources.

At my school, where senior project serves as the culminating experience of each student’s high school education, this could really be a research game changer, provided plenty of guidance is supplied from project mentors on the subject of evaluation of Internet resources. It could put our students in touch with real leaders within their respective fields of study, with those who update us daily on new and exciting developments via social media channels.

In the past, I have developed a paper.li cyber journal for the school I currently serve that targets the passions of our particular student population. It gets regular retweets from a few devoted followers.

Last night, I spent considerable time putting together a new paper.li cyber journal geared toward my fellow educational technology enthusiasts, which I have called Educational Technology Today.

One of the stumbling blocks I encountered was the 25-source limit on paper.li. There are simply so many sources out there commenting regularly via social media on developments in the field of educational technology, which is both wonderful and challenging to the curator.

So, please consider giving me a holiday gift this year in the form of your curation suggestions. What Twitter, Facebook, and RSS feeds would you include among your sources? Feel free to email me at npjobe@gmail.com.

Happy holidays, all!

Google Hangouts at Denison University

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Google Hangouts Logo

If you are part of the Independent School Educators listserv, you may have seen a conversation recently regarding the number of schools moving away from FirstClass in favor of Gmail and Google Apps for Education in the K-12 independent school world.

The particulars of that transition are not the focus of today’s post; rather, I’d like to highlight how one feature of GAE, once enabled, has true potential to meet the mobile learner’s present and future needs in virtual spaces.

Google Hangouts, the subject of an earlier post here at transformingteachingandlearning.wordpress.com, is being deployed in innovative ways K-12 and beyond, as evidenced by German Professor Dr. Gabriele Dillmann’s recent presentation at the annual convention of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. 

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Denison University logo

Dr. Dillmann’s approach is truly maximizing the potential of virtual spaces and harnessing the power of social media and the collective to engage and activate learning.  

Rather than having the teacher present at each Hangout session, Dr. Dillmann – working in collaboration with Denison Instructional Technology Specialists (particularly Cheryl Johnson)  – has developed a step-by-step guide for her students to take charge of their own peer-peer Hangouts.

Student leaders organize and initiate Hangout sessions following the guidelines supplied by their professor. The Hangout session leader records the session, and then posts the video to YouTube, subsequently sharing the YouTube link with their teacher (see this video for more specifics on the process). This in turn becomes a living, breathing artifact of learning that can be used as a teaching tool in a spiraled-style curriculum where students become teachers and true partners in the teaching and learning process.

Students are assessed according to a highly sophisticated rubric incorporating the following evaluation criteria: 

  • Linguistic Accuracy
  • Communicative Effectiveness (body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, affective gestures, etc)
  • Fluency and Circumlocution
  • Pronunciation
  • Participation as a Learning Community Member (essentially, to what extent did each Hangout participants’ contributions advance the conversation?)
  • Dialogue Etiquette (interactions demonstating respect, sensitivity, interest, etc)
  • Group and Leadership Competencies (fulfilling individual responsibilities with care and dedication).

The unequivocal message that this rubric sends to Dr. Dillmann’s students is that they are being evaluated holistically and not solely on the basis of their German utterances. They are being prepared for a world in which their success will be determined not only by a sophisticated technology and (one can hope!) linguistic skill set, but also by the degree to which they have developed their own intercultural awareness as well as their style of delivery in virtual and group interview environments. 

Please feel free to contact me for further details on this exciting development.