Sitting in a talk at the 21C Learning conference, I am attempting to gather together all that I have heard and seen into a coherent set of ideas that I can share with others. As with most CPD events, there has been plenty of good stuff, but also lots that I have been underwhelmed by.

The two main speakers I have seen are David Warlick and Stephen Heppell, who spoke on Cracking the ‘Native’ Information Experience and Be Very Afraid: Listen 2 Learners respectively. Both were fantastic speakers, and though their talks were very different, they both used a combination of experience and humour to deliver compelling messages. The following list gives the key points that I have taken away from these two speakers, and various other encounters:

  • Cracking the ‘Native’ Information Experience
    • Most teachers grew up in an age of information scarcity: how is pedagogy different in an age of information abundance?
    • Whether or not you give credence to the idea of “digital natives”, it is clear that students today enjoy a different information experience than any students who have gone before them. This experience includes a combination of information abundance, hyper reality, social networking and digital games.
    • To successfully help students learn, we need to crack the code of this experience (e.g. understand it) and then hack it into our teaching. This is different from just letting kids play games or social network to learn: it is distilling the essence of the experience and then reapplying it.
    • Instead of forbidding mistakes, how can we build in opportunities for students to make them and then learn from them?
    • As leaders, we can lead by telling compelling stories.
  • Be Very Afraid: Listen 2 Learners
    • Be Very Afraid is a UK effort to have students from a range of schools show education leaders what they can accomplish using technology. It is in its seventh year, and seems to be extremely high profile.
    • This begs the question “to what extent do we listen to students?”.
    • BVA is a great example of student voice, essentially allowing students to tell government leaders what education can be. Other novel forms of student voice (e.g. going beyond a student representative council):
      • Students involved in interview process for new teachers.
      • Students help to train and give feedback to new teachers.
      • Students give feedback on what their teacher could do better.
      • Allowing students to design their own learning spaces.
      • Getting rid of staff rooms and making them rooms for everyone to use (blurring the line between teachers and learners.
    • By listening to students, we can learn how to make education more seductive to them, and thus make them mroe likely to learn.
  • New, novel and intriguing use of technology:
    • Google Maps used as a menu to link user to data (as menu in his blog)
    • Backchannelling, or using live, digital conversations as an additional layer to add meaning to a live speaking event. In the classroom, a backchannel, can be used for students to help eachother understand what a teacher is presenting. It can also help the teacher to understand how students are engaging with the work, and thus help them (very powerful when students are unwilling to ask questions). EtherPad is an open source system for this, but if you don’t want to install it yourself, try ietherpad.
    • Scratch for teaching programming, game production, arithmetic and logic in ICT or maths.
    • Slick use of screen zoom (Ctrl+two finger swipe on a Mac) to isolate important screen elements.
    • The Count, a statistical display of just how much content we are producing in our connected lives. Very powerful for illustrating the rapid growth of content and connectivity around the world.
    • Diigo as a more powerful replacement to Delicious (I’ve just moved all my bookmarks over)
    • Using time lapse photography to record student activity.

The following is a list of things I would like to implement upon returning to school:

  • Backchannelling using ietherpad.
  • Use this post, and my process in producing it (listen, watch, make flat notes in text editor, then convert to rich notes in blog), as an example for my Independent Learning students to use their own blogs to improve their learning.
  • Ask my students for feedback on my teaching.
  • Survey students and teachers to work out what they are doing with 1-to-1 laptops…what could we do better?
  • Student-led collective lesson notes using our school wiki, allowing students to avoid repetitive note-taking (by sharing with each other), yet promote ownership.
  • Use Diigo more, especially the note taking features.
  • Experiment with time lapse photography