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.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Ken Shelton - Keynote One at ULearn13 - Inspire and Motivate Through Transformational Teaching and Learning

I've attended the last two ULearn conferences in Rotorua (2011) and Auckland (2012), so it was exciting to have ULearn in my own backyard of Hamilton and getting to sleep in my own bed still.

First up, as the opening Keynote speaker, was Ken Shelton, an Apple Distinguished Educator, a Google Certified Teacher and a Discovery STAR Educator.  Click here to go to the profile put up by Core Education to introduce Ken.

And this is what I got from Ken's speech (click here to watch for yourself):

Inspire and Motivate Through Transformational Teaching and Learning
  • How have we changed our learning?  When we or our kids want to learn something now, we go to You Tube - this is where we learn and get entertainment.  We have changed our physical spaces we learn in.  We learn from the web.  Technology has transformed, and our accessibility to learning with technology has changed, evolved.
  • Learning needs to be fun - Ken showed a video of how people tried to get people to use the stairs more than an escalator at a subway station by turning the stairs into a piano.  Click here to watch.  How do we transform, modify, something for our students and colleagues?
  • Why would we as educators want to do any form of transformation in our teaching, in education, in our physical space?
  • Sometimes change is just changing one simple thing to get a massive change.
  • Engagement is a reason for change.
  • Ken Shelton gave a shout out to #kidsedchatnz on Twitter where children engage in conversations on Twitter about their learning.
  • When we do any type of transformation we stand a greater chance of increasing the engagement of our students in their learning.
  • Technology can be used as inspiration.  Ken uses videos to often inspire, Go Pro videos, to encourage students to express themselves within each discipline of study, e.g. investigating physics through skateboarding.
  • Technology is not the be all and end all - it is a mechanism for transformation.
  • Ken showed a video, Zack Matere Growing Knowledge, where Zack explains how he used the internet to solve the problem of diseased potatoes, helped a friend to build a windmill, and to provide information for a notice board to give information to people in his village.  Zack used the internet as a mechanism for transformation.
  • Creativity is essential in learning, and Ken spoke about how Sir Ken Robinson is one of the biggest proponents of creativity in learning.
  • Transformation is a key to creativity and vice versa.
  • Children need opportunities to write and/or create content.  Creating content is more than writing a story.... it can be creating a video.
  • Children need to publish.
  • Give students opportunities to decide how to use their content and how their content knowledge will be assessed - publishing online helps students to be self-critical and self-evaluate their own writing.
  • Technology is no more dangerous now than bicycles were in the 1800s. It's about preparing the environment.
  • It's not simply the inclusion of Technology such as word processing in learning - it is the amplification of the use of Technology such as the use of blogging.
  • What will I attend that will transform my learning and teaching?
  • Destination unknown - when we embark on change we do not necessarily know where we will end up.  The look on the children's' faces when they 'change' is worth the risk.
  • Kids work needs to be seen - it doesn't have the same impact if other people don't see it. We have to help create the audience for our kids.
  • This video is of an explorer of the modern kind.  Andrew Vanden Heuvel used Google Glass to take a class in the US on a physics field trip to Cern, Switzerland, where they/he could directly ask the scientists and engineers there about this massive machine investigating how our world came into being.  How inspiring is that?  (And I'm guessing Google Glass will be in our classrooms of the future...)
  • Creating authentic opportunities for connection part of the deal and often overlooked by teachers.
  • "Everyone can publish and everyone will." - Vice President of Google.
  • Ken told us here about Inspiration and Creativity: Next Vista for Learning where people  submit a short quality videos that explains something and is copyright free (including music) for several competitions throughout the year.
  • You have to have the content knowledge to produce a video.
  • Have to know the process of how to make a video
  • Have to know and understand copyright, free use, etc.
  • Ken used this video as an example of what can be found on the Next Vista site and as an expectation for entries to their competitions.  Ken uses these videos to inspire his own students to create and do better.
  • Publishing process just as important as the publishing itself.
  • Just inclusion:  "I let the children use technology and type their stories up in Word/Publisher/Google Docs".
  • Amplification:  publishing on a blog or creating and posting a video - ramping it up.
  • Transformation:  what's going on in your classroom, how the kids are learning, how we are learning, what we are doing, how are we collaborating, how are we connecting?
  • Ken used wordsift.com to create a 'picture' of the words that we fed back to Ken through his back channel as he spoke.

  • Find workshops that will help you change and transform something in your teaching.
  • Are you risk assertive or risk divertive? The greater the risk the greater the reward.
  • Technology is about enabling collaboration and creativity.
  • Publish for transformation more than inclusion or engagement.
  • It's amplification that leads to the transformation.
  • Would you like kids to learn from Wikipedia or a primary source? Ken couldn't take kids to Juno Alaska to meet the elders and hear the stories, but he could arrange to Skype people from there. 
  • We, the teachers, need to be published too - both teachers and students.

A day after posting....

So I have been reflecting on this post today.... It felt like I hadn't really given it a conclusion.  So, like a good writer does, I've come back to revisit this post and add on the conclusion I feel I need to give it.

So what did I take home from listening to Ken Shelton speak?

  • Change doesn't have to be big.  A small change can have a significant impact on how and what we learn.  Don't be afraid to make a small change to amp things up, to get some form of transformation.
  • Have fun when learning and make learning fun.
  • Use technology to inspire and as a tool to create.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Yesterday I made a mum cry with joy.

Yesterday I made a mum cry with joy.
That's much better than making them cry because they've suddenly found out their beloved child isn't where they thought he was in his learning - which was a situation she and I had earlier in the year.
But what these two incidents confirm for me is how important communication and honesty between the teacher and parents are.
Earlier in the year I was telling this parent that her child was below where she had been told he was last year and that I had great concerns for his learning.  I had to take him backwards to move him forwards.
All year I've looked at this child with great concern, face palmed when he just "didn't get" some fairly simple concepts or instructions, growled when he didn't get on with it, redirected him when he was lost, chunked it down, set smaller goals to achieve, showed him a few tricks, explicitly taught him how to do something... yep... the full spectrum!
But lately it seems a little spark has ignited in this young chap. The boy who sat there saying nothing now occasionally pops out a one liner that makes you stop and stare, has the answer to a question and isn't too timid to say it.  The boy who struggled to put pen to paper writes half a page.  The boy who didn't want to read at the beginning of the year now tells his mum he likes it better than maths and is excited to come to reading.  Now I've got to reignite his maths joy!!
Last week we had parent/teacher learning conversations (conferences).  I showed his mum the testing I'd done the week before on basic facts stages.  His mum fed back to me about his basic facts homework and we made the decision together to give her boy the homework for the level he has yet to achieve plus the homework for the next level to motivate him.  When we spoke yesterday she told me he was loving it and I had seen during our marking session that day that he was onto it with the next level.  But our big goal for both levels is to get him working at speed.
I have to say some of the other children in the class were a bit envious that this one child was getting to do two levels of maths for homework.
So let's fast forward to this week.  I've been testing the kids on their essential spelling lists (thanks NZCER) for the fourth time this year. At the beginning of the year this boy was struggling to get through lists three and four.  Last term we attempted list five for the first time.  He blew that list out of the water this week, so I tried him out on list six and was pleasantly surprised.  So I said to him, "Mate, I'm so proud of what you've done in your spelling.  I want you to try list seven.  I don't care what score you get, I just want to see what you're doing with the words at this level."  He agreed that was a good idea and he did it.  If I'd tried that in February I would have fried his brain, but now he is ready for it because his confidence has grown so much!!
I have to say that despite his score for list seven being low I was greatly encouraged as he was so close on so many words.  Like I said, things are starting to click for this boy.  He's that little bit older and that little bit more mature and it's starting to come together for him.
But I could never have done this by myself.
I've had support from a teacher aide in my classroom who casts that extra set of eyes over all the children (not just the one she's employed to work with) and alerts me to what I'm too busy to see at times.
I've had a really positive RTLB who works with two other children in my class who I bounce ideas off about the other children I worry about.  That has been great to have as well.
But the most important relationship that I have developed to help this boy, apart from my relationship with him of course, is with his mum.  It was starting honest communication, keeping up those casual interactions at the school gate with little updates and the odd email home as well as the more formal things like the conferences and the Achievement Books that I sent home a few weeks ago.  Through these interactions I learn more about the child and what he thinks and needs from me, and this goes hand in hand with what I see him do in class, in my teaching groups and in his work and assessments.
Teaching is all about relationships.  Relationships between the kids and relationships between the kids and the teacher; relationships with the parents; relationships with colleagues.  These relationships help me to be a better teacher to help the children I teach, because I really can't do the best for them by myself. 
So yesterday was a warm fuzzies moment I'll treasure as much as his mum does.