Fake Language? How To Know If You’re A User.

“You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.” Martin Luther

Throughout this year, I seem to be using fewer words. One — I don’t need to talk as much; I seem to be spending much more time listening, Two — I seem to be reading more than I’m writing; I’m in absorption mode. Having spent more time listening and absorbing, I’ve begun to notice the language we use, especially words that tend to be overused. I’ve also noticed that many of us users haven’t thought about the meaning behind our words. Despite the fact that the language choices we make (and the hidden meanings behind those language choices) are vital.

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Have you ever noticed the titles of the ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ from the TV show Get Smart? The ‘goodies’ were named ‘Control’ and the ‘baddies’ were named ‘Chaos’ (spelled Kaos). Consider for a moment the hidden message here. Control = good, chaos = bad. Wouldn’t you love to have overheard the conversation that occurred behind the naming of these two groups!

Alternatively, consider Orwell’s thoughts on the use of language to control the mind and exude power over others. In my experience, it appears to be that those who use the correct buzzwords are those with the power; making others around them feel inferior and out-of-the-loop. Check out the website below and consider the ways in which we use ‘Doublespeak’ (Orwell’s term).

http://www.damronplanet.com/doublespeak/

We often talk about the importance of our organisations having a “common language”. Generally, what people mean by that is that when Person A is talking about [insert overused term here], Person B creates the same association with that word as the speaker and thus better communication ensues. Let’s test how common our language really is. Humour me for a moment and take out a writing implement. Write down these words and then the immediate association you have with these words (NB Don’t think too hard about them and definitely don’t google them):

  • Outcomes
  • Results
  • Innovation
  • STEM
  • Wellbeing

If you would, choose 1 word and post on Twitter why that one word changes when applied to learning with the #commonlanguage and @notosh . I’ll collate the data and post the results on back on Twitter under the same handles.

All of the terms above are currently buzzwords in the education space but what do they really mean? What do they mean to you, your context and the wider context? Here’s an idea — In the next meeting with your colleagues, conduct the same activity and share what was written down. This would be a great way to determine genuine common language and terms that need defining as well as develop collective empathy.

I encourage us all to compare the various meanings and, perhaps, set ourselves and our teams a mission to find the most appropriate term according to what it is we all really mean.

Another great article to read about the power of words is this one below:

https://uxplanet.org/weak-words-kill-experiences-3c1b48960ce0#.kl5u43j9e

Three Reasons We All Need To Have A Amateur Mindset

Amateurs, on the other hand, make mistakes often and freely; undeterred and focussed on the ever-elusive prize ahead.

I’ve been thinking a lot about amateurs of late… as I’m about to become one again. Just take a moment to reflect on the last time you were a novice. Was it last year? Five years ago? Twenty years ago?

Back at school, we were used to being the amateur but, especially as teachers, we tend to be more comfortable in the “expert” phase of our life seasons.

I’ve had quite a number of careers – outdoor adventure leader, teacher, salesperson, fitness instructor, TV presenter and now… consultant AND mother. That’s a lot of new stuff to learn. But, why should we bother being a novice again? Why shouldn’t I rest on my laurels after all of the effort I’ve gone to becoming an expert in my field?

  1. Amateurs Prioritise Growth (Eckert, 2016)

In his book, The Novice Advantage, Eckert categorises educational novices into 3 distinct characters:

  • The Beginning Novice – one who is inexperienced yet enthusiastic
  • The Experienced Novice – one who is experienced yet still passionate about learning new things
  • The Perpetual Novice – one who continually challenges oneself to move out of his/her comfort zone

Where do you fit in this list? There is, however, important aspects that these different archetypes have in common – they continue to develop as a learner through rising above setbacks, continuing to be curious and innovating. The novice understands that they will never “get there”… because “there” doesn’t exist.

2. Amateurs Are More Motivated 

Have you ever noticed how amateurs are curious? Our 4 year-old wants to know the answer to any and every question. In fact, toddlers ask around 400 questions per day.

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When I was beginning my career in the TV industry, I wanted to know everything. I read ratings reports and newspaper articles on new programs that were being developed. I discovered producers and uncovered their contact details. I watched advertisements and quiz shows with a new awareness. I read autobiographies of television personalities to discover their secrets. I even drove 8 hours every Saturday for a term, whilst working full-time, to nurture my presenting skills.

You see, amateurs tend to try anything and everything with audacious disregard for time and space (Merredin, 2012). Amateurs understand that they need to keep motivated in order to learn more… that they haven’t (and may never… hopefully never, reach a pinnacle). Because they often treat their work like a hobby rather than a “job”, they’ll happily continue to craft their skills for hours/days/months on end like a kid learning to ride a bike. It’s astonishing how amateurs find “extra” time to hone their skills.

3. Amateurs Make More Mistakes

…and thus, continue to have a Growth Mindset about their failings. Amateurs understand that mistakes are part of the learning process and they are less attached to perfection. Dweck (2014) calls this the “Power of Not Yet”. Ever notice how perfectionists find change difficult? They don’t want to take risks because they’re afraid to make mistakes… Perhaps, mistakes may damage their professionalism or even their profession. Amateurs, on the other hand, make mistakes often and freely; undeterred and focussed on the ever-elusive prize ahead. They allow mistakes to make them stronger rather than be damaged by them.

May I encourage you… (not actually a question #justsaying) Find something in 2017 in which you can be an amateur  – or, maybe, just make that your attitude.

Algorithmic Thinking + Literacy = ?

Since attending the GAFE PD at Sacred Heart a couple of weeks ago, algorithmic thinking has been on my mind (yes, I am a total nerd!). I attended a session with the fabulous, Dr Rebecca Vivian that focused on how to implement algorithmic thinking in practical ways.

We’ve been studying number patterns in Mathematics so this workshop was brilliant timing, allowing me to implement ideas straight away. We’ve also been focusing on writing information reports. An idea began to boil in my mind… what if instead of designing success criteria, students could use algorithmic thinking to create a flow chart for a successful information report.

I decided that I would attempt this task through Literacy Rotations. This meant that while other students were engaged in their specific rotational task, I could explicitly teach students in small groups about flow charts and the symbols… and it would link with the algorithmic work we were doing in Maths… even better!

I distributed to the students a template of the flow chart symbols (an example of the symbols but my example was much simpler) accompanied by an information report work sample (from ACARA work samples) which we’d previously studied and labelled.

As a small group, we then worked through the symbols and their meanings and I modelled how they might start their flow chart (Are you writing about something people will want to read? Yes? No?). In their small group, students then continued these draft diagrams. Here’s an example of a starting point.

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A flow chart for a successful information report.

From here, students began using the drawing tool in Google Docs to create flow charts that could be added to and adjusted more easily. Check out the example below:

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The start of a flow chart using Google Docs.

This continues to be a work in progress and these flow charts will develop as we continue to delve deeper into interesting and effective information report writing.

Scavenger Hunts with Google

PRIOR TO THE SESSION

Today I tried something quite new (what a surprise!) and it was also quite complex. After reading Stephanie Perretta’s blog about Creating Self-Checking Scavenger Hunts with Google, I gave it a go myself. Stephanie has set up the resources for a first-timer so beautifully – thanks, Stephanie. Her instructions are so detailed that, for once, I had to read through something in a systematic way in order to accurately replicate the process.

Since we’re studying the Order of Operations (AKA BIDMAS, BODMAS, PEDMAS, BIMDAS etc.) and it’s a fairly linear process, I decided to create my scavenger hunt around this topic. I also wanted to add more than YouTube clips for remediation, too – this required some trouble shooting as I also wanted to use PlayPosit and Brainpop.

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A student completing a Brainpop PEDMAS game.

Setting it up was quite a process and, for once, I knew I actually had to test it myself as there were so many variables in play. Luckily, I did as there were a few aspects that didn’t quite “add up”.

However, not everything went exactly to plan but I’m a life-long learner with a growth mindset. Thus, I reflect on my experiences and work out how I can improve them next time;)

JUST BEFORE THE DAY

I set the QR codes in place the afternoon before –  ready for our lesson after recess on the following day. Then, at about 2.45pm the day before, a student came up to me saying “I found this QR code on the ground.” Annoying. I then had to search through the classroom to find where it may have been missing from.

JUDGEMENT DAY

I had prepped the students about the scavenger hunt just prior to the session. After recess, the first thing I did was provide students with a rubric and ask them to self-assess their knowledge of each aspect so far. I then asked the students to add a Chrome extension – The QR Code Extension – via an announcement on our Google Classroom page. Following this, students were free to scan in the QR code (strategically placed on the back of the rubric) and complete the first quiz.

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A student scanning a QR Code to go to the next quiz.

Here’s where things got a bit crazy. I didn’t consider that from that point at least half the class would be going to one site (the next question) and the rest would be going to the second site (the remediation for Q1). This had many students waiting around and also resulted in QR codes going missing.

We troubled-shot (?) through this quite quickly though and then we were off. There were a couple of other speed-humps though that I’ll navigate more carefully next time:

  1. Students neglected to actually press ‘Submit’ and therefore, they got confused and just started following friends around.
  2. Students neglected to return QR codes to their hiding place which meant that QR codes went missing.
  3. Some students didn’t watch the remediation videos which meant that they just re-did the final quiz until they finally chose the correct option rather than learning how to do it accurately.
  4. I neglected to mention that PEDMAS, BODMAS and BIDMAS are all the same thing which confused students.
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Students remediating with Khan Academy clips.

WHAT WILL I DO TOMORROW?

I’m going to start our Maths session explicitly teaching BIDMAS (order of operations). Then students will pick-up where they left off in the scavenger hunt.

On Wednesday, we’ll debrief the whole process in our class meeting so we can make it better for everyone next time.

Thanks again, Stephanie Perretta, who inspired me to think outside the box.

Classroom Redesign 101

The start of 2016 allowed me a great opportunity as I was starting in a new class space. I had decided early on that I wasn’t going to set up the class space for my students as I believe strongly in the “Third Teacher” principle.

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It was hilarious on the first day of school to see the students’ and parents’ faces whilst looking at the the desks and chairs neatly stacked up and the walls bare. What was funnier was how tentative they were about entering the space… I felt like I was mustering cattle to get people in there!

The only thing up on the walls were photos of the students and teams I had randomly placed them in.

We started the morning in Circle Time. I love starting with Circle Time as it’s a great way to connect as a whole group. We played a few “ice breakers” and then split up into our teams.

I handed each team an article about effective learning spaces. I’ve created a Blendspace of these articles that you can see here –  Learning Space Design Blendspace (NB. Normally, we would have had laptops on day 1 so I would have asked teams to conduct their own research using the SOLE framework). In their teams, each students read the article and then chose 1 word, 1 phrase and 1 sentence to highlight and to share with their team.

I then split the teams into expert groups in which they shared their different articles. Each member of the expert groups took turns to share and take notes on the various articles and research.

I enjoyed the way that my students were informed about what makes effective learning spaces prior to them beginning to ideate.

Check out my next blog entry in which the students start ideating.

Gold Tidbits from Educating Ruby – Competence and Character

One aspect I find difficult to teach is character. What I mean by this is that I love teaching about character but actually giving students the skills to develop their character is a whole other ball game.

Something I’ve blogged about a lot is Austin’s Butterfly and how I play that clip to every new class. I love Austin’s craftsmanship. I love that he did 6 drafts. The students love to see his progress and how skilled he became through persistence.

“You taught me the pleasures of craftsmanship. I used to be a slapdash, but now I take real pride in producing work that is as good as I can make it… I don’t want to let others down, but, more importantly, I don’t want to let myself down. It’s not about determination; it’s about being careful, and thinking about what you are doing, and taking time to reflect and improve, and going over your mistakes and practising the hard parts.”

Educating Ruby, p.133

So, what is it that children really need to learn? Educating Ruby (p. 153 – 158) states that children need:

  • Self-protection
  • Intercultural empathy
  • Financial management
  • Sexual understanding
  • Practical labour
  • Science
  • Statistics
  • Scepticism
  • Talking clearly and confidently
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Navigation
  • Cookery
  • Horticulture
  • Caring for others and things
  • Religion
  • Relationships
  • Morality
  • Self-presentation
  • Driving
  • Leisure
  • Fitness
  • Relaxation
  • Attention
  • Craftsmanship

The text implores each one of us to consider which of these should be taught, when and to what age group.

In the next section, the text reminds us of how contagious mind-habits are; we pick up the mental habits of others so easily. It is vital to ensure that we collaborate with others who have strong ‘habits of mind’. When students can get the grades without employing resilience, independence and self-discipline (not obedience); they are less likely to be successful in life (according to Paul Tough).

Learning is often a collaborative rather than (or as well as) a solitary venture, so the inclination to be a good sounding board to others, and the ability to give feedback in a respectful and useful way and take criticism yourself without getting hurt and defensive, is also needed.

Do you, as a teacher, teach 3D shapes or First Farmers or Colour Theory that extends your students to ask deep questions and conduct deep thinking? How can you make your students less dependent on you? How can you facilitate a safe mistake-making environment?

 

Gold Tidbits from Educating Ruby – Part 1

Upon recommendation, I’ve been reading a book entitled ‘Educating Ruby’ by Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas. The book is not only a call to action about modern learning but demonstrates research about effective pedagogical practice – the Roms, the Trads and the Mods.

The Romantics believe that children will blossom if we leave them alone. The Traditionalists seem to believe that all would be well if we had lots of old-fashioned grammar schools teaching Latin and algebra. Trads like to keep things simple, even if their beliefs are damaging or wrong. The third tribe is the Moderates, which includes the vast majority of people who work in or care about education. Where the Trads are simplistic and pugnacious, the Mods like to think and tinker (or ‘thinker’, as Michael Ondaatje put it).” An excerpt from this blog.

I thought it might be helpful to collate some of the golden tidbits from this book to remember.

Chapter 1. Call For Concern

  1. We must encourage risk-taking

Many of our students are risk adverse having lived a molly-coddled life wrapped in cotton wool in which failure is unacceptable.

“How different my life might have been if my school (as many do now) had deliberately nurtured my appetite for adventure and a tolerance for error.” Tom Middlehurst, Head of Research at SSAT

2. We must encourage parental engagement

So many teachers are fearful of parent engagement, concerned that parents will “judge” or that their involvement might deem their teaching powerless.

“…the effect of parental engagement over a students’s school career is equivalent to adding an extra two to three years to that student’s education.” John Hattie, Director of AITSL

3. Finding a meeting point for all stakeholders is vital.

Those behind cried “Forward!”

And those before cried “Back!”

And backward now and forward

Wavers the deep array;

And on the tossing sea of steel,

To and fro the standards eel;

And the victorious trumpet-peal

Dies fitfully away.

 Macaulay.

Essentially, there is a call for concern. But, these authors are preaching to the converted. One of the reasons I chose to read this book is to have an empirical basis for my concerns about the lack of progression in education.