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LONDON, United Kingdom
All the stuff I work on around the digital world

Monday, 28 April 2014

Open Educational Resources Conference

Checked into the OER14 meeting at Newcastle. Discussion MOOC dominated as you'd expect. Martin Weller's www.oermap.org is subjecting the "religion" of OER to proper evidence. JISC Legal is waking up to the copyright problems of MOOCs but not really considering them yet as learning contracts, only publishing contracts.

New data from Nottingham Trent and Desire2Learn - releasing this today

Monday, 21 April 2014

A new educators journal "EML" for the web age - what will it offer ?

A new online journal Educating Modern Learners (EML) under editorship of Audrey Watters of HackEducation launched last week.

Premise: the objectives of education in the web age are paradigmatically different from all that has preceded. Access has changed everything (although schools tend to little more than distribute devices and logins). The learning process itself is changing and schools are losing their role in it. The learners themselves will be driving learning. The new fundamental right of each learner (which it is now a school's job to enable) is the opportunity to learn on their own. Not any more the right to be taught or have materials. The journal hopes to help school leaders to make better decisions as they write this new narrative.

My friend Doug Belshaw has written one of the first edition articles, looking at what it means to be a literate web user.

The time has come to move beyond discussions of whether the web, social networks, and mobile devices are inherently “good” or “bad.” Debates about whether such things can (or should) be used for learning drag on while the next generation cobble together their own understanding of an increasingly blended online/offline world. It’s time we as educators stepped up and taught more than just “e-safety.” It’s time we started facilitating learning experiences around reading, writing, and participation on the web.

One challenge to educators I like is that they need to rethink the process of participation. The old model of taking a role in the learning process through "joining in" has different meanings now, if EML's premise is correct. Maybe schools and educators will have to rethink how they assess engagement too. Thinking about Learning Analytics, too, would have to develop.

Based last week in Poland (Poland is a top scoring country in the PISA rankings now, has long ago overtaken the USA) and sanity-testing this radical educational rethink on the schooling of my very bright niece Milena (14) who is in secondary education here I note two different kinds of participation have really worked for her.

One is the old fashioned class based one. An upcoming school trip to Paris next week has her bubbling with engagement.

The other participation that has transformed her has been an online community of Manga and Anime writers. Her Anime blog is the most read in the Polish language, a huge motivator for a young teenager.

So I'd give a partial endorsement to the EML mission. But we are still in transition, and for young people the teacher and classroom as locus of traditional socialisation-based learning is still a big deal.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Inequality in UK HE challenged in - wait for it - Daily Telegraph

Daily Telegraph is not on my usual reading list so I am surprised to see them carrying a jeremiad that UK Universities are a bastion of middle class privilege, from Alison Wride, Provost of GSM a London college specialising in non-traditional students.

Wride's numbers and evidence are familiar from what she has said before. What's interesting in the Telegraph context is her challenge to the Unis to desist from their usual game in Widening Participation (WP) of seeking out any bright students from diverse backgrounds. That's what a right-wing readership is comfortable with, because of the "opportunity" flavour.

It is one thing to seek to recruit ABB+ students from WP backgrounds; quite another to recognise that the greatest impact is achieved with those whom the system failed prior to A level study.
Inevitably, in this context, universities can see people from disadvantaged backgrounds as a drain on resources, needing additional 'remedial' support. They are, at best, raw material that needs to be shaped into more 'typical' 2.1 students.

And why is the Torygraph carrying such radical dialectic ? The comment spaces below the article are seething with rage and incomprehension.

Wride may be further ahead of the reform agenda than Telegraph readers think. The Obama college reforms are demanding that US Universities show evidence of impact in order to secure funding. That's to say, their success (and income) will be measured by how far they move students on from where they are when they enter the college. In American political language this gave a headline "A better bargain for the Middle Class" and it proved very popular across the whole political spectrum. I don't talk to many UK Provosts and vice-Provosts who see the job of Higher Education in these terms, except at the OU. They know that degree classifications still drive the funding and the system.

But when digital technology makes assessment about everything and not just the final score, an institution has easy visibility of the progress of each student. Some of the more advanced digital-focussed academies in the UK are (without the political statments) coming over to Wride's view. Nottingham Trent University, where I have had some dealings recently, comes to mind.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Outdoor classroom example - France

An example of a local small school thinking creatively about teaching and learning, using things of interest in its local environment as tools. Is this a model of how technology can be used as well ?

The cantonal school here in Donzenac, Limousin (France) sends its C1 and C2 classes (ages 7, 8) for a full day once a week to the pony stables at Lavaud. The children are accompanied by two teachers, who design and deliver the curriculum there. Using the farmyard chores and the preparation of horses, and ultimately a ride in the local forest, the teachers cover a syllabus of literacy, science, numeracy, social skills, physical education, sport and community content. The content of the day (which is always Monday) then continues to drive work in the classroom the other days of the week, shaping activities in writing, creative curriculum, numeracy etc.

The classes adopt this format for a six-week cycle. The price per child for the riding is 6 Euros ($7.50/UK£ 5) plus transport provided by the Mairie from its vehicle fleet.

I worked today with Isabelle, the instructress, who has been providing the facility at her stables. She observed that the children grew their skills with the horses (shetlands) but also found that the process of listening, taking instructions, understanding sequences, and obedience were easily mediated and transmitted during the sessions.

The teachers observe that the increasing number of city children arriving in Donzenac as overspill from the nearby city of Brive, with problems of challenging behaviour not normally seen in rural children, are well served by the contact with animals. Processes of compliance and attention which are not well transmitted on the school site, are effectively modelled and internalised through the sense of awe and emotional engagement the children have towards the horses.

Transferring all this to learning technology... this school, through the passion of its teachers and an inspired facility on its doorstep, has been able to use the resources of the farm as a gateway to learning. What matters is not just the quality of the experiences at the stables, but also the blend of active learning with conventional instruction.

In that respect, it's no different to good instruction with IT.