Learning is....
Planting a seed in our brain... learning to water, nurture and grow it.... so we can live on the fruit of our learning and plant more seeds.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Khoa Do - Keynote #2 at ULearn12

Khoa Do is a great story teller.  He had a packed conference room in the palm of his hand.  This amazing teller of stories comes to us from Australia as a film maker and having the prestigous title of Australian of the Year in 2005.  He was born in Ho Chi Minh City in 1979, and in 1980 his family fled Vietnam to eventually settle in Australia.

Here is a link to Khoa Do's own website:  http://www.khoado.com.au/

Khoa told the amazing story of how his family came to Australia and the challenges they faced as a family and the goals he set for himself.

Khoa's key message was about the difference we can make to young people in our communities.

We all need resiliance - you will get knocked down over and over and over again.  But with resiliance you will carry on and success desite all of the obstacles.  Young people have to learn that they will not always succeed.  And sometimes we actually have to set them up to fail so they can learn what failure is and how to deal with failure.  Sometimes the biggest lessons happen due to failure - and I can testify to that!!

Sometimes it pays to be late!!  This was great news for me, as I am always late!  Khoa explained how sometimes the most amazing and fruitful things have resulted from him being late to an event or meeting.

Khoa explained that we do not always get what we want or into what we want to get into.  Sometimes we have to make our own way to achieve the goal we are working towards, and that may mean not going down a traditional pathway.  And sometimes our eyes have to be bigger than our belly in order to succeed.

We have to set ourselves up for success.  Did you know that not only does Robert De Niro know his own lines when he does a movie, but he also knows the lines of all the other characters in the scene?

Some key ideas to leave you thinking:

  • If it is what you are passionate about then that is the story we will tell.

  • Knowing your weaknesses sometimes is better than knowing your strengths.

  • Success isn't about what we're born with - it's about what we do with what we are born with.
Here is a link to Khoa talking about one of his latest projects, Falling for Sahara, which he worked on with Somalian refugees.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Kevin Honeycutt - Hooking Learners with Digital Tools

When you walk into the room you note straight away, beside the lecturn, is an electric guitar - no two - just spotted the black one against the black lecturn.  Hmmm, what will he do with these?

My second breakout at ULearn12 was with Kevin Honeycutt.  He was also the Keynote Speaker on Thursday morning.  I've been following Kevin Honeycutt on Twitter for nearly a year.  Why?  Because everyone else I was following was following him.  However, I really didn't know anything about him that much before I came in the room for this breakout.

Breakout #2:

Kevin came out with a stream of gems right from the beginning!!  It was hard to keep up, but I tried.  And there is so much more on his website:  http://kevinhoneycutt.org/
Sometimes people don't like you to be innovative.  It means they might have to do it too.  This quote stood out for me!!  I've so been there, and it can really hold you back.  So I need to strive to innovate so my students will too.
Have a YouTube Channel.  Kevin does:  http://www.youtube.com/user/kevinessdack?feature=results_main.  He has so much on his channel - personal observations, tips for teachers, videos of working with children.....  You will also find the best teachers on YouTube.  Kevin had always wanted to learn how to play guitar.... he found people on YouTube who had posted lessons, so that's how he learned.
We need to be in partnership with the parents of our students and one way to do this is to have parents nights at school to build that partnership.  While they are there, record parents saying one thing they are happy with about the school and then mash it up, put it on your website - it is free advertising and it is your community's voice.  These soundbites of parents giving positive feedback about your teaching, your school, and your class can be used to fight back against cuts.  We need to make our kids famous to keep funding and programmes.  We need to get free advertising.

Kevin did this when the Arts budget at his school was going to be cut.  With not much experience, not much money and not much equipment, the students at his school made a movie - and they made sure EVERYONE knew the were making it, had made it, were showing it.  He made sure his kids were famous so the Arts did not get cut at his school.
Kevin and his students did all this with just in time learning, a budget that was tight and led him to find cheap alternatives - but quality doesn't have to be perfect for the first time - as you learn, things get better.  He recommended making films about a variety of topics.
Thank 'em, don't spank 'em.  

When you are excited about the learning your remember it all. 

Good, passionate teachers write on student's brains.  As teachers, we are writing on the brains of our students, so we need to make sure that we are writing the right stuff.
Kevin recommended this website about brain based learning:  http://www.funderstanding.com/educators/brain-based-learning/
  • Teachers must immerse learners in complex, interactive experiences that are both rich and real. One excellent example is immersing students in a foreign culture to teach them a second language. Educators must take advantage of the brain’s ability to parallel process.

  • Students must have a personally meaningful challenge. Such challenges stimulate a student’s mind to the desired state of alertness.

  • In order for a student to gain insight about a problem, there must be intensive analysis of the different ways to approach it, and about learning in general. This is what’s known as the “active processing of experience.”
    And so Kevin went on to explain one of his favourite examples of learning that works to write on students' brains.  It is called:  Doomsday-1 Misson to Save Earth and this is the website link:  http://plpnetwork.com/D-1/D-1_Step_by_step.html
    The Challenge:
    Form a team and design a plan to save the world from an imminent collision with the Doomsday1 Asteroid and prepare a video presentation for the UN highlighting the merits of your plan.
    The Problem:
    We are in trouble!  A lone astronomer spotted an "Earth killer" asteroid that has come to be called "Doomsday-1" will strike Earth in the southern hemisphere in one year!
    The Plan:
    Become an expert about asteroids.  Figure out a way to save the Earth.

    The students need to become researchers to complete this challenge.  Kevin was adament that we need to make the kids find the source.  He said Google is a search engine, not a source; Wikipedia is a source, but the students must dig deeper - where did they get their information from?

    Children today are digital natives.  But they come to school and often have to power down.  Don't touch my lid!!  Kids are saying that they hate coming to school because they have to power down.  They are telling us, "Don't amputate my digital limbs by making me put the lid down."

    Kevin pointed out that some of our students that have been precluded from regular society are our best inventors - think about Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs.... what was their school experience like?

    In the US they are cutting the Arts programmes to save money, but these programmes are the best outlet for creativity.  Kevin said it is what the kids do with the knowledge - not how they get it!

    We need to "fake it till we make it".  There are apps that can fill the gaps in your brain - it is not cheating - I'm just bbetter at other stuff.  Skype across the hall before you skype across the country - take the new things in baby steps.

    Kevin asked some big questions:
    • Our kids will spend the rest of their lives in the future.  Are we getting them ready?
    • Why would we do what you say if you don't care about my family?
    The second question Kevin said not only applied to how students see their teachers, but also to how teachers see their senior staff.  Kevin believes that family is integral to being a good teacher and learner.

    As I wrote earlier, I follow Kevin on Twitter.  He can be quite the prolific tweeter!  And he so believes in the power of Twitter.  Once he was flying to a city in the US and his bags were flying to some other city.  He was going to have no clothes and toiletries.  He tweeted this, and the next thing one of his followers in the city he was arriving at tweeted him asking him what size he was.  When his plane arrived she was waiting for him with several changes of clothes.

    With Twitter you have a community that has your back.  I had this recently demonstrated to me when our new Novapay payslips arrived requiring a password to open it.  I had no idea.  But a question on Twitter, and it was not long before I had an answer.

    Kevin showed us this photo of a Twitter wall.  There is a child's face with a blank space and a Twitter handle.  It is velcroed to the wall and as the children arrived each day they used a whiteboard marker to update their status.  It was a good way to find out what was happening in each child's life that morning.

    But we need to teach our kids to have that "my keys are locked in the car" moment before they hit the post button.

    What does that mean?  You know that time you locked your keys in your car and how that felt?  And how you still have that feeling of possibly locking them in the car even now, so you are extra careful?  Well we need our young people to have that feeling before they hit the post button on email and Facebook and Twitter and other social networking sites.

    With two minutes to go the guitar finally makes its entrance.  Smoke on the Water.  TweetwoodMac tweeted that they wanted to jam.
    OK, so who knows why this photo imported this way
    round and why can't it be rotated in blogger?  Ta.

    And then Kevin showed out the second guitar - an iPad guitar.  Insert iPad and it lights up and plays like a real guitar!!

    Later that evening, Kevin and conference attendees were jamming outside the exhibiters' hall.  Most entertaining.

    Apparently you can buy one of these iPad guitars for $99 US.  Hmmm, now I need an iPad.....

    Wednesday, 24 October 2012

    ULearn12 - Keynote and first breakout with Jason Ohler

    So here I am for the second year in a row at ULearn in the September/October holidays.  I can see my brain being fried, challenged!!

    Keynote #1:  Jason Ohler

    We started this morning with Jason Ohler, a pioneer in the field of digital technology, education and teaching.  He began with stating his whakapapa in education, especially digital education.  He showed us his learning journey and the teachers who "opened doors" for him, even when it did not fit the system.  He also supplied us with his website:  http://www.jasonohler.com/index.cfm

    Opening doors is a key idea from his keynote that I will take away.  As teachers we open doors to new avenues of learning for our students. 

    Personally, I've always considered myself to be a sower of seeds.  I plant a new idea, possibility, notion in a young fertile brain... it's not always ready to germinate... sometimes it needs other gardeners/teachers to tend to that seed before it reaches its potention.

    Anyhow, Jason Ohler said that teachers open doors for students in their learning journeys despite of the system.  So we need to be door openers.  Students are banging on the door to show us how they are learning with their technology.

    Jason Ohler said that the next 'R' in education should be art.  He believes that art opens up so many opportunites for children in their learning journeys.

    Our students need to be problem finders, instead of us teachers always supplying the problem to be solved.  Our students need to be building learning from a problem - using this as the basis of a story for learning - ‘what’s going to happen next?’  We (the teachers) need to focus on helping kids understand their learning, documenting their learning and turning learning from turning in a report to creating stories.

    Jason lamented that so many dining rooms in family homes have been replaced by tv rooms, that family conversation have been replaced with "Shhhh, the movie is on!"  This results in disconnects, rather than connects - families too busy with screen time to talk to each other.  He also pointed out that families need to ask each other "So what did you do on Facebook today?"  Our youth have 'real' lives and 'virtual' lives and we need to be a part of both.  Be their Facebook friends.

    Think about this:  how many times have you put a You Tube clip on and the kids lean back on their chair and check out?  Jason Ohler recommends telling the kids to put their chips away and get out their pen and paper to take notes.  Give them the question, which answer will be in the clip, before playing the clip.

    The next key idea is:  Storytelling has been working in education for over 50 years.  Jason illustrated this with a story about his grade 2 teacher giving him a way to remember the name of dinosaurs, through storytelling.

    He also talked about reports not being reports - that the learning journeys of your students can be stories - instead of a bunch of reports, make a bunch of stories.

    Breakout #1  -  Digital Storytelling with Jason Ohler:

    When it comes to story telling, is all about the narrative.  We will sit through a low budget production if the narrative is good.  We should not give an 'A' to everything that moves, especially if the story is poor!! The most important part of the story is the narrative.

    Key resources:
    When kids get kinnestetic with the narrative before they write it, they write better - video the children telling the story before writing the story, then they don't forget their story and they can go back to 'remember' as they write.

    A green screen doesn't have to be expensive.  Paint a wall green, use green material pinned up on the wall.
    This website has links to further information on digital story telling.
    • music impact
    Music in a digital story can change the impact of the story.  Jason Ohler played a clip with no dialogue several times, each time changing the music.  It was amazing how your perception of the clip changed just because of the music changing!  It is important that the movie has its own narrative, so sometimes it shouldn't have music.

    Below are a couple of free places to get free music for digital photo stories.
    freeplaymusic  http://freeplaymusic.com/
    creative commons  http://creativecommons.org/
    • pictures
    A place to get pictures for free:

    Remember that the narrative is the key to a good digital story.
    The story is core in each person's education journey.
    Info containers....
    Story     vs        list   1, 2, 3, 4,

    Storymapping instead of Storyboards

    Story spine

    Remember the rule of 80/20  -  Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    Process:  http://tellastory.wikispaces.com/DS+Process
    get media
    add pictures and/or video
    add citation
    if time:
    add music

    The pictures above are explained more in the tellastory.wikispace.com site (link above).

    I found having Jason Ohler first up to be inspirational.  He talked about everything I need to make a Titanic movie with my class this term.  They have created the Titanic already, it's been taking up significant space for months is my class.  Now we just need a script!!

    Friday, 12 October 2012

    A Fully Loaded Term Break!!

    Woooaaaahhh!!! This has been one intense term break!

    Last week I went to the NZEI Annual Meeting.

    I was shocked at what an ignorant Minister of Eduation we have and how people can be blinded by her jingoism and pretty words.

    I was rather annoyed (I would prefer a stronger term here) to find out how poor the MOE has been in our contract negotiations, the lack of respect they have for teachers and their conditions - the condidtions your children learn in.

    I was scared by what is happening in Australia to teachers knowing that the National govt are following in their footsteps.

    I was in despair with the predictions for the future as well as a commentary of what is happening by the Secretary of NZEI, Paul Goulter.

    I was inspired by Pasi Sahlberg from Finland who spoke common sense.

    For the last three days I've been having the most amazing PD - sorry - PLD (professional learning development) at ULearn in Auckland with 1500 other educators. 

    The keynote speakers and breakout presenters were awesome, and I've come away very inspired for the coming term!!  Some just in time learning has occurred to help me with the exciting things I have planned.

    In the next few days I will be refining my notes, referring back to my tweets and those of fellow tweeters, and reflecting on my learning so I can share it with you.  Hopefully you will find it helpful too.