Teach Listening today to avoid another 2016!

Sorry to be political for just a minute but I promise this post has a non-bias, positive and productive ending. 2016 was not the best year of my life. For people like me, the world seemed to shift in a frightening direction towards isolation and polarised societies.

2016 in three words – “Failure to Listen”

As an educator, I’ve spent the last 6 months considering what has gone wrong and is it a matter of failing education producing “post-truth” generations who fail to question such things as fake news. This is where a randomised suggestion from TED.com seemed to offer me a gentle, concise, but powerful solution to all my concerns – Listening. I’d summarise 2016 as the year people failed to listen to others. A year where locking out debate and the thoughts of others became legitimised. Even the idea of listening to experts was questioned on both sides of the Atlantic. So I’d like to introduce you to (or remind you of) Julian Treasure.

5 classroom exercises to heal a world

In this talk, Treasure addresses our society’s shift towards too much noise (think social media and the pace of life) and thus loss of skills in and desire to truely listen to people and our surroundings.

“We’re becoming impatient. We don’t want oratory anymore; we want sound bites. And the art of conversation is being replaced — dangerously, I think — by personal broadcasting.” – Julian Treasure

If only we had  remembered Julian’s 2011 TED talk, we might not have has such an angry 2016. In this talk, he even predicted our current problems when he said:

“We’re becoming desensitized. Our media have to scream at us with these kinds of headlines [Sensation, Shock, Scandal, Reveal, Exposed, Fury] in order to get our attention. And that means it’s harder for us to pay attention to the quiet, the subtle, the understated … a world where we don’t listen to each other at all is a very scary place indeed” – Julian Treasure (2011)

listening-eduwells

Teach Listening today!

Here is an edited summary of Julian’s 5 suggested exercises that I believe could transform your classroom, and possibly even improve grades, not to mention, save the world!

  1. Silence: “Just three minutes a day of silence is a wonderful exercise to reset your ears and to recalibrate, so that you can hear the quiet again.”
  2. The Mixer: “listen in the [classroom] to how many channels of sound can I hear? How many individual channels in that mix am I listening to? … put names to those channels such as: pencil; tapping; pouring paint; bunsen burner.
  3. Savouring: “This exercise is about enjoying mundane sounds.” Next time you sharpen a pencil, really listen! It’s a great sound.
  4. Listening positions: “Remember I gave you those filters? It’s starting to play with them as levers, to get conscious about them and to move to different places.” This is where you focus on one of the environment’s sounds and consciously enhance it’s volume in your mind by focusing on it intently.
  5. RASA: Julian says “Finally, an acronym. You can use this in listening, in communication. RASA stands for “Receive,” which means pay attention to the person; “Appreciate,” making little noises like “hmm,” “oh,” “OK”; “Summarize” — the word “so” is very important in communication; and “Ask,” ask questions afterwards.”

I can see these skills apply to nay specialist area such a students using RASA to challenge each other on science analysis. Savouring as a dramatisation exercise, and Silence in ALL tasks – I already use it at the beginning of Design thinking tasks.

Teachers need to plan consciously for their use of listening and discuss / teach these skills specifically to improve levels of thinking and empathy practiced by their students. Let’s all start using the art of conscious listening throughout education and we help the next generations fight the noise that surrounds them and avoid another 2016.

P.S. 2016 as I saw it …

  1. The U.K. voted to ask foreigners to “leave” only to find out the next day they’d voted for the U.K. to “leave” Europe. “What is the EU” = most popular Google search on that day.  
  2. The U.S. voted to “drain the swamp” only to find that the “swamp” of bureaucrats and lobbyists were simply no longer needed because the the people who funded the lobbying were to be the new government cabinet.
  3. A horrible man in Syria officially asked a horrible man in Russia to help him sort out some people fighting for freedom, allowing the horrible Russian to perform bombing practice on civilians,. Then a tweeting 16-year-old U.S. president-elect called them both “great guys.”
  4. Nobody listened to anyone who didn’t already agree with them entirely.

[political bit over 😀]

 

 

Making your classroom an incubator for global citizens.

Be it a classroom, a chat room or a war room, when do people choose to contribute to a situation? When you think about it for a moment, it’s not hard to work this out from experience. My first thoughts are:

  • Trusting relationships with the other stakeholders
  • A sense that:
    • you have something to offer
    • your contribution might succeed
    • one learns from any failures
  • Confidence to:
    • present your ideas to others
    • communicate and relate to new people

student teams01Developing these attributes and skills takes time. If you want to empower your students to feel they can use their school time to develop as contributing global citizens, your class lessons and projects need to have the above list as a foundation. You must also allow time for this development and not expect to be able to ‘teach’ it in a week or so. The confidence to contribute is not some thing one learns but something one develops through experience and feedback. To achieve these attributes, your class activities need to regularly be student driven, where the learners work together under expectations that they, not the teacher, need to formulate the best approach. They also need to develop habits in seeking and making productive connections with the right people, wherever they are in the world. Here’s my previous post on “What is Student-centred learning?

A networked world

What Teacher am IAnother understanding (that can be taught) is how young individuals are currently connecting globally to instigate projects and create products that are making a real difference. The examples below will showcase how becoming an active global change-maker, or a member of a change-network, can become a real possibility for anyone willing to purposely connect with others. It’s your classroom’s job to develop that will in your learners.

YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE NEW EXPECTATIONS OF THEMSELVES:

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Highlight to students that being a global citizen is an awareness that one exists as a node on a network. How important one is as a node is up to the individual but every node has an important role to play.
I have found that showcasing how young people are connecting to online ‘tribes’, centred on a particular issue or topic, and how they learn from that tribe through feedback on their contributions, inspires my students. This is how much of today’s global citizens operate and how much of the significant positive change takes place.

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What difference can I make?

The more you teach your class as one unit, the less your students feel like individual learners and more importantly, individuals who might impact on global issues and change. To truly become an incubator for global citizens, the teachers job in the 21st century is to cultivate an empowering learning environment where students expect to take charge of both prescribed content and global impact, through their own development of networks, projects and feedback loops. This, like anything, takes practice and from as early as possible, this is the primary role of a 21st century classroom.

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Richard Wells Author pic SMLAuthor: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12
Deputy Principal in a New Zealand 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.

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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! 🙂

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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?

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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.

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Can social media help manage a successful classroom?

Humans are all about relationships. This is why learning is all about relationships but that’s also why social media has both taken over the world and will have a huge impact on education and learning.

Social Media wallsNotice there, where I split the education and learning into two distinct topics. I do this because the term education implies the familiar formalisation of learning that we are all accustomed to. “Education” makes people think of buildings and classrooms, testing and grades and not necessarily learning. Just as social media has challenged and transformed the business world over the last decade, it will increasingly challenge the education institutions built on the 20th century’s model of one-size fits all and their view of what successful learning is.

Whether schools like it or not…

The tools and features within social media that allow individuals to make connections, build networks, share learning, receive feedback from peers and grow one’s own learning are already challenging the purpose and even need for a classroom, as we’ve known it in the past. Social media, be it school based, such as Edmodo, or public like Youtube, is itself teaching young people that networks that share a common goal often prove more powerful than the sum of their parts.

Connected generation

“I’m currently working with a group in Iran” – Grade 7 New Zealand student.

Clash-of-ClansYou might think that the quote above that came from one of my students this year is unusual but what was more unusual was that he didn’t think anything of the statement! It was me, his teacher, who had to point out how special his circumstance was. The context was that we were doing a project on world connections and he was an avid player of “Clash of clans” on his iPad.

Only when I ran through some comparisons and highlighted how the world had changed so quickly did he become inspired by his collaborations and how those very real experiences might impact on his perceptions and future interactions with people from other parts of the world. He went on to include in his project his meeting with an Iranian employee of his father who he’d made a special request to meet.

Authentic and relevant audience

I hear many frustrated teachers bemoan the lack of writing quality amongst even their senior students even after they’ve experienced over a decade of education. I like to highlight that developing an intrinsic desire to takes one’s writing seriously when your audience is one teacher and the reward is an abstract grade has always been hard for most students. This is where, I’ve always liked the concept of Quad-blogging founded by David Mitchell. A class of student bloggers, team up with 3 other classrooms elsewhere in the world (arranged by the website) . One format is that each week or month, one class’ blogs become the focus for the other 3 classes to feedback on. This system then rotates. For me, the ‘unknown’ audience of peers makes students take much more care over what and how they present their writing and projects. They now see their work as much more an extension of themselves exposed to the world outside the classroom.

The world is now layered with thousands of online networks and it’s time for classrooms to allow these networks to make learning a relational and authentic experience. It’s online networks that can stretch learning beyond the four walls that until now have only isolated young people from the world they might become a key players in.

David Mitchell explains his Quad-blogging story:

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EduWells Pofile Pic 2015Author: 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.

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Why #EdChat is NOT just Resources and Ideas

What keeps so many teachers from professionally engaging  online? I’ve found it’s possibly not their confidence with tech, social media or educational debate.

This year, I’ve been privileged to be part of a research team put together and funded by Core Education in New Zealand. I’ve run a research project around teacher engagement with social media and to what extent it has real impact on classroom practice. My original plan was to monitor how 10 volunteer teachers would join and engage with the networks and how marvellous it would be to see it filter through to their students! Well, that plan lasted for about 11 minutes! My opening explanation to the volunteers centred on acquiring new ideas and resources and that it was social media that offered teachers cheap and convenient access to these new ideas.

After a couple of months, we had held lunchtime and evening Twitter chats and met for face-to-face discussions and I was disappointed by the majority of volunteers who hadn’t found an incentive to network at all outside these scheduled research meetings. So, our discussion turned to why people weren’t engaging in the online edchat.

What’s stopping you?

FINAL EFELLOW KEYNOTE4bSome felt the issue was time, but this was countered by the more engaged teachers definitely having more commitments in their life. Was it a lack of interest in pedagogical debate? No. Many of these teachers were in cluster groups around Auckland and even providing professional development to other teachers in the school. Was it a dislike for social media? Of course not! All the volunteers used social media on a daily basis in their private life. In fact, one participant who had not engaged in edchat used 4 social media sites a day!  I realised we had to refocus our discussions on something deeper.

“You have to know the network is a supportive group” – Teacher (NZ)

Half way thorough the year I held interviews with each individual. From these, strong themes developed around teachers felling isolated in their classroom and being uncertain about their own practice and where it would sit within a sharing network. This started the 2nd of three phases in this project where I focused on confidence in one’s own teaching as a decider for joining the edchat conversation or not.

“I would share but I’d have to be confident that what I was doing was ok.” – Teacher A

“I had a bit of self-doubt about what what to contribute” – Teacher B

“I don’t think I was well rehearsed with scripting the conversation around learning.” – Teacher C

The discussion around isolation highlighted the issue of not knowing how to position one’s teaching or attribute a value to it and this led to ambiguity about how and what one would contribute to a wider, especially worldwide, discussion online. This led me into a 3rd phase where I considered how teachers build an individual identity as a teacher rather than viewing the job as a single destination that all teachers are heading towards.

What teacher am I?

What Teacher am ISince 2007, New Zealand has had teaching inquiry and formal experimentation into one’s teaching practice built into our national curriculum document but for many teachers this has become a personal and not shared experience. So, they again have no real comparison with which to judge the value of their inquiries against other teaching. The discussions I was now having with the participants indicated that it was positioning oneself amongst the teaching profession within these online networks that caused them to pause, reflect and delay their input.

“I’m trying to articulate what my niche is. I spend hours thinking while I’m out walking, running, about my identity and I know I wont arrive at it now and I might be working towards it but it’s got me thinking exactly what I want to be identified by.” – Teacher C

Inspired by the work of  Manu Faaea-Semeatu, who’s been researching how people connect with people from other cultures and recognise the gaps in their knowledge about the different situations and priorities others might have. An inspiring talk with her led me to realise that recognising one’s own gaps in teaching knowledge is a starting point to look for ways to address those gaps. Where Manu asks questions about one’s individual cultural identity, connecting online asks questions about one’s teaching identity.

This is the deeper reason I think social media will and is impacting on teaching. Considering to join these networks is to consider where your teaching would sit within the conversation. These thoughts about values and practice and what we would present / give to others is what strengthens the profession. It is so much more than accessing and promoting resources and ideas.

A question for teachers: Are you teaching a classroom or your classroom?

There’s no denying that a teacher influences the form and style of their classroom. Teaching is not a job that develops towards a destination predetermined by the profession. I now wonder if many of the teachers not finding an incentive to join and share in the conversation haven’t yet viewed their teaching role as a personal and unique product that should really be evaluated against other teaching and developed through sharing it. They may have reduced their view of the role to something already fixed and known that they can slowly work towards on their own. Joining networks through social media helps teachers consider and develop their personal set of values and interests and build a better classroom environment based on their own reciprocal edchat discussions.

Joining the online edchat through social media is to start to consider and develop your professional persona and find your place within the network that expresses your own values and triumphs.