Why #YouMatter makes me happy and sad

I was lucky last November to be in Miami for the fantastic Miami Device event. There I saw the inspirational Angela Maiers, the author and presenter of the now worldwide #YouMatter campaign. This is a vehicle she uses in a number of ways. The primary aim is to have everyone realise that they do matter and that they have significant knowledge and talents to offer the world. This understanding is something Angela encourages teachers to develop in both themselves and their students. She asks both teachers and students to share their learning and experiences in an attempt to help others and in doing so, realise the impact an individual can have on the world.

STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.024

Happy :-)

This all makes me very happy and I think it’s a fantastic initiative to push within education. I personally boil school purpose down to: Making every student realise how important they can be in the world. I too have presented and run workshops on how being a connected educator empowers one’s professional life. It gives more meaning to any classroom moment one is willing to share. Teachers use blogs and social media to develop confidence to such a point they even begin to share the not-so-good moments. This acts as a way to encourage feedback and ideas from their followers so as to grow one’s practice.

#YouMatter is so important in a world where anyone can showcase their talents to the world and make connections to help build success around them. As a personal example, I failed English at school but have built a considerable following from my writing in just 4 years. I’ve used sharing and networks to realise my writing matters.

Sad :-(

Here’s my question: Why do teachers and students need #YouMatter? Surely, schools are exciting places where empowered students get to spend everyday working on their passions and expressing their own talents in preparation for a rapidly changing world that demands they showcase what they can offer. Errr… ok, not every school. Um, … ok not most schools. And here lies my problem.

It is such a shame to watch teachers building relationships and working hard to let every student know they matter, when the school systems and structures are dedicated to doing the opposite. How can #YouMatter, if:

  • everyone has to read the same book?
  • everyone must stand when the bell goes?
  • you have to stop what you are doing and start something unrelated?
  • you’re never given enough time to immerse yourself in anything properly?
  • your government has pre-decided what you need to look at?

Cheer up :-)

It is so encouraging to see an increasing number of school leaders challenge all the aspects of education’s status-quo. In simple terms, most elements of factory schooling need to be removed from education and leaders must start thinking far outside the (factory) box, if we are to ever have universal success when saying to any young person: “#YouMatter.”

 

5 BIG Themes for 2016 iPad Learning

2016 has arrived and iPad pedagogy has moved a long way in 6 years. Having iPads in your classroom is no longer about which exciting apps you can all use but more about empowering your students to discover and share their own iPad solutions for every situation. This requires collaboration between peers and a flexible mindset held by all in the room, including the teacher.

It’s about building on new habits held by young people to connect, create and share their learning. It’s also about keeping in-touch with new developments to ensure our young people are ready for a rapidly changing world. Think less about teaching delivery or one-app-fits-all, and more about 21st century habits & the development of an innovative mindset. (See this book for more details on this)

We hope these help
Richard & Steve.

iPad 2016 themes

1. PERSONALISED Workflow & ControL

Richard: Challenge your students to find their own workflows. They are great at discovering and sharing their own solutions within the class. Set class expectations to what any of these workflows should achieve, but make sure the learning requires an app and it’s not the app that forms the learning.
Steve: Be very familiar with how to share your student work. Know what is and what isn’t appropriate to share. Be an expert on cloud solutions like Google Drive and Dropbox. Know how to run a class blog or a class Edmodo account.

2. SOCIALISED LEARNING – Chat and Safety

Richard: Ensure you have a class sharing / chat system. This is what most device handling students are used to. Make the opportunities and positive side of comment and discussion part of the learning journey as a class. At the moment, I’m trialling Classting.
Steve: Be sure your students know common online etiquette. Teachers should always have access to everything that is being posted and shared. Students should display respect towards both their peers and teachers.
Richard: Young people need to learn from mistakes whilst in the safer confines of the school, before the enter the workplace. This can not be done if online activities are banned at school.

3. Global connections

Richard: Talk much about creating and publishing creations, either to the class through the like of Edmodo or Classting, or to the world for comment.
Richard: Quadblogging offers a safe way to ensure feedback from peers around the globe. It’s this feedback that will spur students to produce more and better work.
Steve: Find two or three networks online that you can continually learn and share knowledge. You’ll find some of your best educator friends will be people who you’ve never met in person (but wish to one day)!
Showcase both great work and positive connections with a class Twitter account, run from the teacher’s iPad. Great for widely recognising all achievements in the class.

4. Creativity & InNovation

Richard: Utilise the creative advantage that iPads have over other devices. Given the importance of video in the world today, the fact that you can use the iPad like a movie camera means it still holds the edge over laptops and Chromebooks. Just make look into film craft (camera work & editing) to make sure the videos have real impact. Sketchnoting is great fun and is proven to improve the retention of information. Check out this LINK for info
Steve: Avoid just looking for apps that will aide you for a small portion of a lesson. Instead, find ways to use multiple apps to share what both you and your students create (link to App Smashing)

5. New (iOS) opportunities

  • New devices now benefit from the camera’s built-in ‘Slow-mo’ ability. This can show incredible reactions and science moments in great detail.
  • The Notes app is part of iOS and finally now allows for drawing, markup and pics. This makes it a contender to be a key app for students’ note taking etc. Improvements to this once basic app now include the ability to embed maps, photos and websites into your notes.
  • If you are an Apple fan, iOS now has iCloud Drive to replace any need for Google Drive, if you really want to make the most from your Apple device. All files types are ok and the Apple Docs can be edited by non-Apple people through a browser. On your iPad, there is now an iCloud Drive app where app your files can be viewed and accessed.
    .
  • ‘Split View’ (new devices only) has made the iPad even more productive than it was. Simultaneously seeing 2 apps at once solves many problems that keep many people using their laptops etc.
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
  • Siri is getting really clever. If you’re not using Siri, I highly recommend giving it a go. E.g. If wanting to show the class last week’s pics: “Hey Siri, show me photos from last week” The new back button makes working on the iPad that much easier and more convenient. Toggle between two apps with a tap of a button.
    .
    .
    .

    Final Thought

It’s 2016 now and teachers should understand that children can master devices like the iPad quickly. They live in a world where personalisation is the primary concern of most business. Schools need to reflect 21st century institutions and workflow but more importantly, prepare the younger generations for dealing with them. The iPad is a great device, as long as the teacher has the appropriate mindset.

5 QUESTIONS TO REMOVE FROM YOUR CLASSROOM

I talk about teaching and learning quite a lot. In fact, if you ask my wife, probably a little too much. Because of this, teachers in my department ask me questions about what I want them to be aiming for and what suggestions I have for the classes. Rather than spend too much time talking about pedagogy and teaching models, I try to keep it simple and look at the language the students are using in the classroom.

TEACHER DEPENDENCY-EDUWELLS

To keep it simple…

I could go into a lengthy discussion now about deep thinking and unGoogleable questions but let’s keep it more simple. Here are 5 questions I am aiming to never hear in my classroom ever again. If these questions are happening, then they point to some fairly simple issues that can be solved with a combination of resources, technology, and new pedagogical ideas centred on empowering the learners.

5 questions to remove from classrooms

1. What are we doing today?

This question is a flag that indicates dependent students. Students that are of the understanding that learning is something delivered by an external entity. It assumes learning is an organised event that one attends. Your classroom must build an understanding that learning is constant and use approaches that encourage intrinsic desire to grow and take control of one’s own learning. Make sure your provoking questions are accessible and build habits in students to look after their own learning progress.

2. What do I do next?

No learning has an end point and teachers need to develop a classroom environment based on “how far can we take this?” rather than “is there another predetermined step?” I encourage teachers to consider the difference between developing growth or fixed mindsets. Growth feedback example: “You succeeded because you worked hard”, Fixed feedback example: “You succeeded because you’re smart” When students reach a dead end, teachers need to develop a culture of openly collaborating with peers to look for other options. This is critical to developing a culture of “we can” rather than “I can’t”.

test-986935_6403. Is THIS on the test?

Just to get something off my chest … all tests are a waste of time. The is no correlation between exam success and usefulness to a community or workplace. My advice for teachers locked in education systems centred on testing is to flip the teaching and get on with proper learning. Negotiate collaborative projects with your students and present any test or exam as a separate issue that is dealt with by video and individual teacher support afforded by the reduction in teaching delivery time.

4. Which app should I use?

The two best answers a teacher can give to this questions is either:

  1. “I’m not sure, try to find one” or
  2. “Does it need an app?”

It’s a sad moment and indication of poor learner mindset when a so-called digital native is of the understanding to expect tech answers from their ‘born-before-the-internet’ teachers, that they even turn to them for app advice. Very few young people in 2016 would do this outside the classroom, so a teacher has work to do if this question is reserved just for the school environment.

5. Is this good enough?

One aim I promote to teachers is to have your students care about their work but NOT care what the teacher’s opinion is. I’ve done much work with student designed mark schemes. I end most project units with a week of peer marking where each group discusses what they would look for in a successful project, they then design the mark sheet. This makes the students consider every aspect of what they have done. It also encourages all involved to think about how any element could be improved. Most importantly, it starts to develop a genuine interest the quality of their work, separate to what the teacher thinks.

Final thought

The classroom is a strange environment, unlike most others, and certainly unlike anything outside school. I really think teachers can do quiet harm by developing an environment where, because the teacher decides the path and provides direct help towards achieving predetermined goals, students become worrying dependent on school structures. A teacher may get great results, but have they produced a classroom of school-ready or life-ready citizens?

5 Questions to remove-eduwells

Star Wars Posters for Educators [Batch 2]

It’s official, the world loves Star Wars. Thanks for all the 100s of messages of support after my first Star Wars Edu Poster set. I was asked to do some more specific topics, so here’s some more. Hope you enjoy them. I feel they cover important educational issues but in a humorous way to get teachers talking. Ask yourself, what is your school or district doing about some of these challenges. May the Force be with you.

STAR_WARS2 _ EDUWELLS.014 STAR_WARS2 _ EDUWELLS.015 STAR_WARS2 _ EDUWELLS.016 STAR_WARS2 _ EDUWELLS.017 STAR_WARS2 _ EDUWELLS.018 STAR_WARS2 _ EDUWELLS.019
STAR_WARS2 _ EDUWELLS.020
STAR_WARS2 _ EDUWELLS.021
STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.022
STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.023

3 ‘must-haves’ for classroom software designers

This is a great topic for the me and the other Global Search for Education: Top 12 Global Teacher Bloggers to discuss as it offers us an opportunity to highlight to technical people that success for technology in education is about placing learners before technology.

app design

Let’s first look at what the most successful apps education have in common. As examples from a long list of possibilities, I would consider:

All five seem to offer very different outcomes and opportunities but to me they have 3 key elements that all software designers thinking of targeting education need to be aware of.

1. A Blank Canvas

All the successful apps offer a space to create and personalise the learning outcome. This makes the app adaptable to the learner’s need. As education moves away, or at least tries to, from a standardised delivery model, successful apps need to reflect a world where everyone expects to be able to personalise their own experience.

2. A Social space

All the apps that I like to use and recommend teachers try have a social element. Again, this is something that the world and its children have become accustomed to. Making connections and the building of relationships are simultaneously where the strongest learning takes place and are themselves key skills for young people to develop. My experience in using technology for decades, including hundreds of apps shows that students are happiest when their learning is connected and shared.

3. Student Driven

It is still the case that most people, including software designers, outside education are not fully aware of the quite monumental shifts in conversation about how education will operate over the next twenty years. The primary element in this shift is the move to student driven environments. Successful software in schools will always be that which allows the students to shape what takes place and allows the teacher to guide from the side.

Final Thought

Something I’ve mentioned many times on this blog is how New Zealand leads the world in the shift away from prescribed content delivery. As a teacher in this country, this has meant I have never had the need to download a ‘closed’ content delivery app and developers need to be aware that this should be the last of their design considerations if they want a lasting success.

_____________________________________________________________

EduWells2015Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters)
and an International Speaker.
Twitter :  @EduWells

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edu-bloggers.

_____________________________________________________________

 

14 STAR WARS POSTERS FOR EDUCATORS

I’m 38 and so automatically love Star Wars. Inspired by the new film, ‘The Force Awakens.’ here are some #StarWars themed Edu posters for all the other educating Star Wars fans out there. I made them using my 10-year-old neighbour Josh’s excellent collection of Lego Star Wars characters – Thanks Josh! Hope you like them!

The Force Awakens-EduWells

The Class a Teacher Talks to-StarWars-EduWellsSTAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.009STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.008STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.007

STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.006b
STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.005STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.004
STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.003
STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.002STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.001STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.010

Thanks to @dannynic for the one above!STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.011STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.012STAR WARS _ EDUWELLS.013

How I’ll be learning in 2016

2016 Learning-EduWellsIt’s that reflective time of year again. It’s now that educators like me consider what will define our approach to teaching and learning in the next 12 months. It’s made more reflective where I live, as the New Zealand school year runs February to December, so I’ll be starting with new classes in a few weeks.

So, here we go! Everyone else is producing target lists for 2016, so why not me. I don’t assume that my 5 personal focus points for next year are a definitive description of the perfect education, but it’s where I’ve got to and what I’ll be focused on with my students. I also want to highlight that none of the 5 explicitly mention technology. Our future-focused system in NZ has pushed many of us beyond the need to overtly talk about tech as an isolated topic.

I’m busy at the moment writing my book on teaching in New Zealand and why it’s the best system in the world. One of the many points I am raising in this book is how free I am, as an NZ teacher, to focus on these important issues and skills, having not been given a standardised list of content by the government that I must cover. Over here, it’s the teachers that maintain and develop what should be taught. Look out from my book next year if you want to know more.

Here are my 5 BIG things I’ll be focused on in 2016:

Collaborative learning

One of my big concerns is how most schools and classrooms operate in such a way that it forms habits amongst the students for depending on teachers and the school structures to move things forward. A strong emphasis on creating a collaborative learning environment means students will move away from asking teachers for everything and understand how much potential they have between them to sort problems and organise their own learning.

ITERATE

Learning has no finish line. All learning must have a context, expect students to look into all aspects involved, and propose and test solutions and/or new knowledge they’ve come up with. This new knowledge can then be peer evaluated to encourage feedback to highlight the iterative learning process.

Community

Schools often claim to be connected to the community but this does not always include the learning. Connections and perspectives from outside the school gates is crucial to making learning real and relevent. This might be local or from across the world and may involve visits, webcams, problems posed by outside agencies to be tackled by students, or simply publishing for real-world feedback as part of the learning. You might be using Design Thinking or Project-Based Learning but it should at some point connect to the outside world.

Connect

This is as close as I get to directly mentioning technology. Whether it’s other students, field experts, other educators, and whether you are blogging, tweeting, messaging or skyping, learning in 2016 must be connected and shared. Groups, hashtags and commenting can add more depth to the discussion.

Self & peer assessment

Involving students in the design of how their work and projects will be assessed must become a norm. Publishing the marking matrix is one thing but having the students develop it is quite another. I was amazed in 2015 how seriously my students took designing marking matrix for team projects. One class happily took 2.5 hours over it on a shared Google Doc! It makes them consider what to focus on and can be developed as an ongoing process throughout the work. This gives them far more ownership over the learning process, than the standard top-down judgement approach.

There you have it. These are what I’ll be working on in 2016. I hope it gives some people food for thought.

Schools Move Forward by Embracing Confilct

It is extremely instinctive to avoid conflict. For decades, schools have been presented with ideas for change and development, multiple ‘experts’ explaining the rapid evolution of technology, the workplace, and global human requirements. Due to the conflict these ideas can cause in a school, leaders and teachers have become extremely adept at supporting the status quo by inventing excuses for why they can’t be expected to do ‘too much crazy stuff’ (by the way, three different schools’ leaders said these exact four words to me in conversations this year).

This is why I found the following 2012 TEDGlobal talk by Margaret Heffernan, really powerful. Her bio on TED states: The former CEO of five businesses, Margaret Heffernan explores the all-too-human thought patterns — like conflict avoidance and selective blindness — that lead organizations and managers astray.

In this talk, Heffernan uses excellent true stories to illustrate that avoiding the things that challenge our assumptions can have disastrous consequences. Likewise, finding systematic methods for embracing and allowing ideas that challenge to be aired can make all the difference in turning an organisation into a leading example for others. I listened to this and saw obvious parallels in all the schools I’ve worked in. Schools will only make real and relevant progress if they can ensure school leaders and teachers organise and then listen to genuinely critical friends.

Cultivating a school culture that is not just an echo chamber of professional back slapping or an isolated ivory tower of decision making is difficult in schools where the leaders are not skilled or prepared for challenging the status quo. As Heffernan explains, this has the tendency to make people less likely to offer any challenge in the first place. The echo chamber within the school then continues to develop what are seen as more robust arguments against change. One of my most quoted statements from a post this year was: “schools should spend more energy challenging your school’s status quo, than any alternative that might be suggested.”

“Teachers will meet after work only to discover in conversation that they have the same gripes about work but see no potential impact from voicing them”

School Echo Chamber3In many schools who claim a friendly atmosphere amongst staff, this friendliness and social comfort is often seperate to any professional or operational issue. If you’ve ever been on a team-building excursion, you’ll know what I mean by seperate. Furthermore, teachers will meet after work only to discover in conversation that they have the same gripes about work but see no potential impact from voicing them. In contrast,  I know a small number of schools in New Zealand that ensure teachers and leaders have at least one identified critical friend. In one high school, this system is site-wide and on a rotation each year to ensure many different perspectives are heard on any idea or current practice. Students are also involved in planning meetings to help the school appreciate things from the viewpoint of those receiving the learning experience. This has created a more open, adaptable and friendly culture towards developing and improving all aspects of school.

I’m off to read Heffernan’s book Wilful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril. I think many school leaders should do the same. 

 

 

 

Teacher, you’re more important than you think.

So, there they were, a small middle school at the bottom of the world just doing their thing. I was lucky to be visiting the school on a research project kindly funded by Core Education in New Zealand. The school was proud of what they were doing but the issue for me was that “their thing” was MIND-BLOWING and nobody knew about it!

You may have read my post from November titled “HEY TEACHER, WOULD YOU BE A STUDENT?”, it’s my most popular post to date. In it, I introduced the world to Breens Intermediate school in Christchurch, New Zealand. All I did was draw a diagram that loosely outlined what the school was doing. Well, to quote a Californian, it went “absolutely VIRAL!

BreensRTs-EduWells

USA, France, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Australia, Turkey, Uk, Public schools, Private schools, Elementary Schools, High schools,  you name it and they were interested. Above is an image containing just some of the messages, and it’s only those who quoted the tweet, not the 1000s of retweets, likes and re-blogging on WordPress.

World renowned educators and school principals were promising rethinks and planning sessions based on it and teachers talked of dreaming about such a school or wanting to ‘go back to school’ just the experience it. I was humbled by the response but at the same time, not surprised. But what does this mean?

Share it to discover your AWESOMENESS!

Breens is special but not unique and is just another example of something that is happening in every school: a GREAT IDEA. Nearly all schools and teachers are doing great things, the issue is that they don’t know they’re great until they share them and this is not happening enough. If you are an educator, I promise you ‘that thing’ you are doing right now in school would also be mind-blowing to 1000s of teachers and you are underestimating the potential impact of ‘that thing’ to change world education.

Remember, we think in PICTURES

21C Classroom Layout

There’s another important reason why my post was popular: Pictures! Humans like pictures, we think in pictures and so need them to process ideas properly. The graphic I produced was carefully arranged, used colour and layout to divide information and was easy to spot and digest. This is important for all teachers and school leaders to be aware of when promoting new initiatives.

SCARED TO SHARE?

I have also recently posted on “why teachers don’t share.” Here I explained that my research showed unconnected educators were not comfortable sharing because of professional uncertainty about their practice. Until you shared and gained your first feedback, you were unable to position yourself on a sort of educator’s ‘success spectrum’. Until you bounce your ideas off someone else, you can’t judge the response they may receive. Regardless of how confident you are, I have a solution.

DRAW & SHARE AS A SCHOOL

Make sure your school has a Twitter account (Twitter is the primary social media for educators). Ask your teachers to submit their latest classroom ideas and initiatives and promote them as a school to the world using #edChat and #EdTech. This takes the pressure off the individuals, whilst promoting what probably will be AWESOME educational gold to schools around the globe. Start TODAY, or I’ll hunt down your amazing ideas and do it for you! :-)

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 12.25.51 PM

 

 

 

How New Zealand connects young learners

When I first think of globally connected classrooms, I immediately think of various systems I’ve blogged on before like Skype Classroom, Quad-blogging or Google’s Connected Classrooms.  But I thought I’d bring you a connections story directly from New Zealand.

Success is messy

For me, the important point around global student discussion or in fact, any situation that introduces new perspectives to a classroom topic, is that of depth and what I like to call, messy learning. You may have seen this common graphic about success (left). Well, I like to think the same about learning. It is detrimental to education when anything or any person encourages the idea that learning is linear. The idea that at the beginning of learning, you don’t know something  and then after following a particular study path, you complete your learning by obtaining said knowledge. True deep learning is a social exercise. Multiple perspectives are always required if a true understanding is to be achieved. Perspective that won’t necessarily become apparent unless you involve other people in the journey.

The teachers who understand the importance of connecting students and classrooms to the world for new perspectives, still have at least three driving questions:

  1. How young can we start this process?;
  2. How best can we showcase positive and relevant online behaviour and;
  3. If we start young, how do we ensure safety?

PalmyTeacherThis is where I would like to introduce you to a kiwi called Stephen Baker. For two years, Stephen has run a hugely successful classroom Twitter chat every week on Wednesday afternoons. When I say successful, I really mean it. Over 230 elementary classroom accounts have been involved, and remember, New Zealand only has a population of 4 million! The chat can be found on Twitter under the hashtag: #KidsEdChatNZ and has it own account and also a website.

Every week, Stephen and his co-organisers, Marnel van der Spuy and John Willoughby, post the questions for the classes to answer on Wednesday, between 2 and 3 pm. The classroom accounts are added to a Twitter list which they then subscribe to so as to isolate the discussion from the rest of Twitter. Students respond to each other’s reflections and thoughts on topical issues. Questions have included:

  • What does good problem solving look like?
  • Should you be able to use Minecraft in your School/classroom? Convince us! How can it help learning?
  • How do your School’s values impact on your learning?
  • Can you think of any problems that you could solve with coding?

CVvw0j6UkAAn2brAlthough this is a national initiative, #KidsEdChat has introduced thousands of children as young a five, to a world of online connections and the learning and impact those connections bring about. They also get to see online discussion in the context of a real social media platform safely monitored by the classroom teacher.

Why not a #KidsEdChatGlobal? To have students discuss their learning and reflect on each others perspectives could have similar positive outcomes to our home grown equivalent. The question is, will you be the teacher to start it?

_____________________________________________________________

EduWells2015Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters above)
Presenter and also a father to 2 beautiful girls.
Twitter :  @EduWells

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edu-bloggers.

_____________________________________________________________