Thursday, October 14, 2010

MUN's Murphy Mashup: Learning in a Smarter World

I am attending the EDGE 2010 Conference in St. John's Newfoundland today, and felt the urge to blog about an excellent keynote by Dr. Elizabeth Murphy (and not just because I enjoyed Mark, Mary, Dale and Michael's panel on blogging!).

Dr. Elizabeth Murphy's keynote presentation, entitled "Learning in a Smarter World: Imagining the Future", was delightfully different (at least to me).  Dr. Murphy provided a brief introduction and concluding remarks that framed an engaging media mashup that she thoughtfully prepared ahead of time. Dr. Murphy's call to action focused on using our imagination and innovative technological resources to design smarter learning and learners. Key messages include:
  • Imagine a world in which every child is capable of critical and rational thinking. Imagine a world in which every child has access to all knowledge. 
  • Imagine every child regardless of gender, geography religion,  race or income with open access to all knowledge and to sophisticated learning tools.
  • Imagine more intelligent computers that help all students learn more effectively and efficiently. Imagine high quality learning activities and materials in the hands of every child.  
  • Imagine children learning through play. Imagine children engaged and enthralled by every learning experience.
  • Imagine learning experiences designed for the whole child. Imagine a system of learning that responds to children's individual needs.
Dr. Murphy skillfully wove together readily available YouTube videos with thoughtful commentary in a compelling media mashup about smarter learning and the future of education. She distributed cards with a link to a set of delicious bookmarks she prepared so that people could enjoy the videos again after the presentation.  Murphy's media mashup was a great approach to a keynote about imagining smarter learning.

I encourage you to experience a version of Dr. Murphy's presentation as preserved using delicious bookmarks and comments:  Elizabeth Murphy's Edge 2010 keynote, Learning in a smarter world: Imaging the future

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Divon's news: Tech-savvy teens take skill to the classroom

Read a recent news article about teens learning with technology.  I really enjoyed talking to Jordana from Metro News about Sharon Friesen and my research on engaged teaching and technology enabled learning. Jordana quoted accurately and in an appropriate context:
  • “We found they were a lot more creative in the types of projects teachers did with students, and they pursued more long term projects because the kids could take the technology with them at night to work on projects at home,” said Jacobsen.
  • ... in spite of all the new advances in classroom technology, Jacobsen stresses the importance of having teachers on board. “All the technology in the world is not going to change things in classrooms if the teachers aren’t designing rich learning experiences for the students. So engaged teaching matters more than ever.”
Be sure to comment on the article.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Engaging, Purposeful and Meaningful Homework

Calgary Catholic School Board has posted a new homework policy online; The Board has asked for feedback from the community.   Global National's Francis Silvaggio asked me to comment on this policy, and aired a few of my responses on Oct 6th:  No Homework Policy.  Other views that I expressed during this interview include:
  • CCSB has proposed a balanced and flexible policy that enables teachers to be responsive to individual student learning needs;
  • A clear focus on meaningful and purposeful homework has been articulated;
  • Reasonable expectations for the quantity of daily homework have been set for children in different divisions (i.e., K-grade 3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12);
  • Homework can take different forms, from practice, to completion, to enrichment, to project work; 
  • Punitive measures to discipline students for incomplete homework - no missed classes or loss of privileges - are inappropriate. Instead, focus on good communication between school and home;
  • Roles and shared responsibilities for students, parents, teachers and school administrators have been identified.
As an educator, I support the idea of regular homework that is engaging, meaningful and purposeful. I believe that homework can be a great opportunity for children and parents to connect and communicate about learning strengths, interests and needs.  In higher education, professors and instructors have a great deal of flexibility given the learning characteristics of our adult students - most students do individual and group work outside of scheduled instructional time. For teachers and students in K-12, I believe that our expectations for homework outside of instructional time need to be guided by sound educational research on learning and teaching, and also be tempered by our understanding of the many demands on home and family life. Teachers and parents are BOTH focused on student / child success in learning, and effective processes can be put in place to communicate and negotiate a set of shared expectations for schoolwork and homework.

As parents, my husband and I engage with our own children on learning tasks most evenings and on weekends. The learning tasks we do together range from printing and practicing with text, lots of reading using diverse materials, fun activities both indoors and out, arts, crafts and music, and math and science explorations using a microscope, a stove and measuring cups, shovels and seeds, tools in the garage, and various other materials. That said, we are a family that also has to balance full time work and school, with music lessons, choir lessons, sporting activities, housekeeping, meal preparation and clean up, laundry, pets, and so on! In our busy and purposeful full-time lives, we expect to work together with the school on purposeful and meaningful homework tasks that help our children love school and love learning and experience success.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Education Canada: The Hard Work of Learning and the Challenges of Good Teaching

    Read this new article by Davis and Sumara (2010) on the weekend. In it, the authors challenge readers to consider a "change" focus versus a "challenge" stance in designs for learning. I plan to assign it to my student teachers for discussion and debate next semester.  In the meantime, I encourage educators to read and contribute to the discussion using the comments feature on the CEA Website:

    Here is what I posted: 

    This is a thoughtful and important article to discuss with my student teachers - Thanks for the great read!  Two parts that really resonated with me:
    "... teaching that is focused on challenging learners is organized around the much more demanding tasks of setting situations that allow students to negotiate the level of difficulty, of trusting they will choose the tougher route when they are able, of really listening to where they’re coming from and what they know."
    --- the design of meaningful work and learning opportunities, introducing challenging ideas, trusting students to make good choices and to engage, and attentive listening to learners
    " [teachers] are doubtlessly challenging their students, refusing to make things easy and constantly expecting more than of learners than learners might imagine themselves capable."
    --- Seymour Papert introduced an idea decades ago, "hard fun", that relates to a key idea that you are describing here - learners want to be challenged and engaged in a scholarly community of inquiry, and in these communities they thrive. Ref: