Here is my presentation from Teachmeet Melbourne talking about the NBN Virtual School of Emerging Sciences - go to www.nvses.edu.au for more info and to get involved!
Here is my presentation from Teachmeet Melbourne talking about the NBN Virtual School of Emerging Sciences - go to www.nvses.edu.au for more info and to get involved!
There were a number of breakout sessions at the GTA facilitated by our lead learners (all Google Education veterans) and the first one I attended was "Creating Your World". Now on the face of it, this was a pretty straightforward workshop using Youtube.com/editor to create a short video in the cloud. Now I am not going to go into the technicalities of using YouTube editor as, to be honest, it is very straightforward (which is a good thing btw!) but instead, I am going to jot down what I think the lesson plan was for the session and I am sure that the dastardly duo of Tom Barrett and Jim Sill will correct me where I am wrong.
So for starters (or what I would call the engager activity) Tom and Jim showed us this picture and asked us to just look at it and then to write down on post-it notes a title we would give the picture.
The notes were then stuck on the board as a gallery. This simple technique engaged us immediately in learning, opened up our minds to the fact that there was no right answer and let us engage with the session at an emotional level - all fantastic ways to really hook kids into learning (but something which some would see as a waste of time before getting to the cursed content!) It was fantastic to see a bunch of serious educators totally immersed in the task of coming up with a title that evoked their emotions. I came up with "window of wonder" which although on the cheesy side evoked images of childhood dreams and magic so worked for me. The gallery of post-its were then shared which was a great opportunity to share the learning of others and straight away put us in the frame of mind that although this was an individual task, we were all in this together, building a sense of learning community.
After that, we moved into what I would call the input/construction phase. The task was to use this picture as a starting point and develop a short film which would evoke curiosity and wonder in the world (how's that for success criteria!). Jim gave us the minimum technical starting points we needed to get going and we were off. It was great to see that the input was minimal and the creativity and construction began immediately. We were pulled back together for mini-inputs on adding titles and sound, but if you did not need that input, you were able to continue. Tom and Jim circulated as guides on the side, demonstrating questioning, affirmation, challenge and support.
After 15 minutes or so, we moved onto the demonstration phase of the session and Tom told us how we were to look at the work of the person next to us and using the critique protocols from Ron Berger's wonderful book; "An Ethic of Excellence" (be kind, specific and helpful) we were to give feedforward on areas that we thought could be further developed. This was done in the context of prototyping (or redrafting as Berger calls it) so it was fine to not have a perfect product, indeed, we were given the advice to fail fast and iterate; brilliant advice but how often do we allow our students to do this?
After the demonstration phase, we went back to the construction phase and redrafted our work based on the feedforward provide and this for me was key - any type of assessment, be it critique, teacher comments or even a summative test should never be the end, it should always be followed by a chance for the learner to use that feedback as feedforward and improve his or her work.
In the final phase (and, in fact sprinkled throughout the session) was the chance to be reflective, to look not at what we were learning, but how well we were learning, which strategies helped us and, at a meta level, how we could use these strategies in our own classes.
It was great to see that the session modelled very much the planning cycle we have embedded over the last year at John Monash Science School shown below:
On the face of it a simple session but done with such pedagogical mastery and passion, the technology became invisible and the learning was the focus.
For what it is worth, here is my video which is still a bit rough (especially the end) and I really should take any feedforward you have to improve it...
There is a certain kind of magic that happens when you put highly motivated, reflective, caring. passionate, envelope pushing teachers in one space. If you multiply that magic by making that space the Sydney headquarters of a small company called Google (keep an eye out for them as they grow), it becomes really special.
I am proud to be able to call myself a Google Certified Teacher after having spent 2 days at the Sydney Google Teacher Academy. I thought I knew a lot of stuff but wow was I wrong!
The day started off with a great breakfast and welcome from Danny, Becky, Allison and Suan our hosts quickly followed by our lead learners showing their skills in a demo slam.
My personal hero and all round clever chap Tom Barrett showed us a great chrome extension which sucks all of your open tabs into one tab to declutter that browser but also allows you to create groups of tabs and export tabs as a list; great way to share a bunch of websites with kids! Check out OneTab here.
Following on from this, the Google scripts Guru that is Jay Atwood, shared LinkClump Chrome extension, a neat tool which allows you to open multiple links from one webpage in a single action; this marries really nicely with Tom's OneTab extension. Jay then went on to show us Timeline JS a site which allows you to pull data in from a Google spreadsheet and create a timeline with it.
Next up was my team leader, the wonderful Chris Bethcher who showed us the YouTube update which allows you to right hand click the videoslider and select "Copy video URL at current time" so you can direct learners to the part of the clip you want them to start watching from. Nice.
Next up the delightful Dorothy Burt showed us how she uses Gmail to post to Blogger - quick and easy! Check out the instructions here.
The wonderful Wendy Gorton then brought us voice comments in Google docs (see a short tutorial here) and the amazing videonot.es which has massive potential and I really like the idea of using it in language learning.
The fantastic Fiona Grant then went on to SLAM us with teacher dashboard for Google apps which looks to have a lot of potential and I need to explore this further (more info here).
The inimitable Jim Sill showed his passion for art, sharing the Google art project full of glorious art and then the eye dropper Chrome extension which allows you to find the colour code for any colour on your screen. Jim then took us to the Colour Scheme Designer which allows you to build colour schemes around a colour of your choice. Jim exemplified this by creating a blog colour scheme based on Starry Night by Van Gogh.
Finally Google's own Sally-Ann Williams presented the fantastic opportunities around the Computer Science for High Schools project and the need to develop more computational thinking in schools.
All of this learining in 10 miutes was mind blowing!
Now part of my inspiration from GTA Sydney was to share what I learn more regularly through this blog so I will leave this post here and put up a new post for each of the sessions I attended over the next few weeks.
Until then, keep on Googling.
I have taken the plunge and applied for the Google Teacher Academy 2013 in Sydney. Will I be picked as one of the 50 educators to attend the 2 day learnfest? I don't know but I have evey articulated joint crossed!
I did this for a number of reasons; I love learning, I love collaborating with others, I work in not one but two Google domain schools and I am constantly searching for tools that will allow the learners I am with to collaborate, communicate with genuine audiences and be truly creative in problem finding and solving. I hope that my application video demonstrates how deisgn thinking and Google can come together as a truly powerful fusion of technology and process which allows learners to drive their own learning forward and share it with the world andI hope you enjoy watching the video as much as I enjoyed making it :)(BTW please watch it in beautiful HD)
Speaking of which, a big thank you to my beautiful wife who filmed me writing and drawing whilst being sat on a chair on the kitchen bench and to my little boy (not so little, soon to be 8!) who not only supplied the coloured pens, but also the inspiration to treat every learner with respect and care and every learning moment as precious.
What an awesome title for a conference! A conference on thinking. But we think all of the time so why do we need to confer on it? Because we can think better and we can help our kids to think better. As the legendary (but sans hats) Edward de Bono said at the conference - things can be ebne (excellent, but not enough). What a neologism to live by, things are excellent, but not enough.
Anyway, enough rambling... I was lucky enough to attend this conference with two amazing colleagues from John Monash Science School, who are pushing the boundaries of mathematics education, Diane Farrell (@fardef) and Kim McGillivray (@kimberlyannmac) (follow them on twitter, I don't care if it is Friday or any other day of the week - ones to watch I telll you...)
From the masterclass with the legend of SOLO taxonomy, Pam Hook throught the inspiring keynotes, in particular from Ewan McINtosh, I was forced to think, evaluate, analyse, unpick, deliberate, rebuild and, in the words of Alvin Toffler (paraphrased) "learn, unlearn and relearn". I have no intention to describe in detail the workshops and conferences as I have recorded them in a public evernote notebook here.
Needless to say that I learned a ton, unlearned a great deal and relearned one thing - learning is not done by the teacher, but by the thinkng, reflective learner.
I also had a a massive fanboy moment with one of my edu heroines, Pam Hook...
So here starteth the mystery...
Tait Coles and I were conversing about the SOLO taxonomy on twitter when I sent him an article by David Leat and Adam Nichols on the use of mysteries to concretely demonstrate learner understanding. Now Tait and I both have a passion for student learning and an equal passion for our own learning so the possibility of collaborating on a blog post was too great to miss out. Small problem; I live in Melbourne, Australia and Tait lives in Bradford, England. 10,000 miles apart, a 10 hour time difference, what a pickle. Luckily, being resilient and resourceful learners, we put a collaborative Google Drive folder together and started writing together. So welcome to the fruits of our labour, well at least the first part... In true collaborative style, the first part of this post can be found here and the second, well you’ll have to read the rest of this post to find the link to part two! (Or you could just scroll down, but what would be the fun in that?)
There is a powerful renaissance in the use of the SOLO Taxonomy, at least amongst those teachers who publicly discuss their work through blogs and social media, but SOLO is nothing new. First postulated in 1982 (BIGGS J and COLLIS K (1982) Evaluating the Quality of Learning: the SOLO taxonomy New York: Academic Press), SOLO, in its initial iteration, was intended to be used as an assessment tool to look at the complexity of an answer measured against prestructural, unistructural, multistructural and extended abstract criteria.
In the current work of Pam Hook, Darren Mead et al, the focus is moving beyond SOLO as a teacher assessment tool and a move to develop its use as learner tool; a roadmap of learning for learners to support their progression in depth of understanding. To this end, practitioners are sharing the language of SOLO with learners and working with verbs and question stems which both describe the SOLO stages but also empower learners to move from one stage to the next.
In this post, we would like to share an activity that was made popular in early 2000s through the KS3 New Curriculum and the focus on developing “thinking skills” (with many examples being published in the Chris Kington Series of “Thinking Through...” books) ; the “mystery”. In particular, we wish to further explore the use of SOLO as a tool with which we can look at the depth of understanding students demonstrate in this activity and strategies for moving them on.
The “Mystery” is, on the surface, a simple activity where students in groups or teams of 3-4 are given a number of cards with information on them and a question to answer. Some of the information is crucial and highly relevant to the question whereas some of the information may have a less obvious connection to the question and indeed there may be some red herrings.
Students then work in groups with the cards going through stages identified by Leat and Nichols (David Leat & Adam Nichols (2000): Brains on the Table: Diagnostic and formative assessment through observation, Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 7:1, 103-121). This work, aptly called “brains on the table” allows teachers and learners to see a physical representation of their thinking. At this point, it is very easy to use the SOLO taxonomy to make qualitative judgements on the thinking of the students. Leat and Nichols explain how, in their observations of students working on a mystery, they were able to clearly see different stages in the process of interacting with the cards which it is possible to relate to the stages of the SOLO taxonomy. ”As we watched pupils sorting data physically on table tops it began to dawn on us that the manipulation process was a window on cognitive process and as such a potentially powerful diagnostic tool” (Leat & Nichols, Scaffolding Children’s Thinking - doing Vygotsky in the classroom with National Curriculum assessment)
This video shows a group of Y11 Australian (i.e. Y12 UK) mathematicians tackling a mystery where they were given information about ccordinates, derivatives at x values, descriptions of the graph and descriptions of the derivative and second derivative on pieces of card and asked to draw the graph. This activity was put together by my awesome colleague Kimberly McGillivray (@kimberlyannmac). You can download the activity here- Download Mysteries - Graphing V2.
So how do the different stages observed by Leat and Nichols map to the SOLO Taxonomy, bearing in mind that the first three stages in SOLO relate to the quantity (or lack of) understanding and the latter two relate to the quality of understanding?
Prestructural and the Mystery “What the hell do you want us to do?” stage
When first confronted with an activity of this type, students may well find it difficult to engage with the cards, in fact they can’t see the wood for the trees and, as Leat and Nichols point out; “Those groups which, if left unaided, can make no sense of the mystery data in relation to the question could be considered to be showing a prestructural response.”
Unistructural and the Mystery “display” stage
When students understand that each card may or may not have information which is relevant to answering the question, they start to spread them out and display them, looking at each card as a unistructural piece of information. As Leat and Nichols say “Student responses use one piece of relevant data in a descriptive mode without a conclusion related to the data. The unistructural responses can be matched to the display stage, where data items, individually, are being tested for relevance.”
Multistructural and the Mystery “setting” stage
At the setting stage students are unaware of any relative significance or connection between any piece of information in relation to others. However, they are able to “set” or group the cards in an organised manner so that the data are in sets on the basis of what the students believe to be common characteristics or broad thematic themes. These sets could be grouped on the basis of ‘reasons for and against’, ‘useful and reject pile’ or grouped in overarching themes. Leat and Nichol describe this stage as where “On the tables, these sets are arranged as clusters, columns and blocks...The basic process being demonstrated is analysis, founded on the ability to classify.”
With the uni and multi structural levels of the SOLO taxonomy, the focus is specifically on the quantity of information learned as opposed to the quality of learning so, at this crucial point in the post, take a deep breath, grab another cuppa and click here to read SOLO Mysteries Part Deux -
Over the past year, I have been synthesising my 5 years experience of teaching the ALITE Learn2Learn course, with my experience of Design Thinking, with the fantastic project my Y12 group did with the International Telecoms Union, brokered through NoTosh and UNESCO's Four Pillars of Education into a course for year 10 called "Learn to..."
Now we are coming to the end of the school year and I am launching the "Learn To...Design Think" project with y10 (the only downside, and my learning for next year, is that with exams, course confirmation and orientation weeks the kids have a lot less time than I imagined to do this project :()
Using a realsmart rafl to collect evidence of skills, attributes and learning tasks will allow us to capture what I hope will be a powerful learning experience.
We are starting off with two videos about first world problems and then setting off on our challenge. I hope the videos below exemplify what we are hoping to achieve!
As ever, comments are warmly welcomed :)
Engager - What is a problem?
Ok, having taken on board some critique, I have edited and, hopefully, improved my explanation of the SOLO taxonomy. There are three main changes...
1. I have started at the end by talking about the big picture of a concept we are trying to learn and then broken it down rather than building it up from nothing. In order to clarify this, I have added some of the letters from the word CONCEPT.
2. I have changed the circles which represent individual ideas to hexgaons. I have done this for two reasons; firstly there is an implication that having multiple sides means you are able to make multiple connections (now you mathematicians who are about to shout me down and tell me that a circle has an almost infinite number of sides, please take it from me it does not, it has only two sides. An inside and an outside ;)) The other reason I have switched to hexagons is that one of my favourite activities to help externalise SOLO stages in learners' thinking is by using cut up hexagons or Triptico's excellent think link tool.
3. I have added another stage post extended abstract. Now this is not strictly speaking a lens through which we look at the complexity of a learner's understanding, it is actually just the idea that when we really understand a concept and have explored the possibilities, that concept may well retract (is this the right word?) and become an uni structural element of an even bigger concept. (Thanks to Kim McGillivray from JMSS for challenging me on this).
As ever, this is a work in progress and, as Darth points out, one must prototype and take feedforward to get things right, so any comments are welcome (as long as they are knd,specific and helpful...).
Ok, lets practise what we preach. I am trying to create a very short, visual presentation of what the SOLO taxonomy means to me to use in the iBook I am developing around learning and personalisation at John Monash Science School.
It is very interesting to note that the original SOLO taxonomy was entirely focussed on outcomes (hence the name) but that the teachers (mainly from the twitterverse) that I have come across, use it much more as a tool for learners, as a roadmap of what learrning looks like in a particular domain or idea at each stage of the taxonomy. Now this video is far from perfect, but I like the graphics which I find help make sense of the leap from relational to extended abstract thinking. Please feel free to critique and leave comments which are, in the words of Ron Berger, kind, specific and helpful in improving this video.