Monday, August 31, 2009

Intrinsic Motivation

Dan Pink's talk about motivation from is fantastic. I'm trying to work out what it means for teaching. The basic idea is that providing extrinsic rewards works only when there is a clearly defined task. When the task requires some lateral thinking, extrinsic rewards hinder the accomplishment of the task.

Alan Lurie is also writing about motivation in his article. Both Pink and Lurie see intrinsic motivation arising from autonomy, mastery and purpose. All of which are lacking in the current educational model. Students have little autonomy. Lot's of mastery and little purpose. What would a model of autonomy look like in a school? Certainly not like the corporate environments described in this Slate article. Autonomy would look a lot like the concept of education by appointment. It would look a lot like gifted education, where students discover their passions and run with them.

Mastery is something that we may or may not do a good job with in education. Open source software and blogging communities are both examples of communities where mastery, individual thought, and contributions to moving the project forward are valued. How can we bring these sorts of communities into our classrooms where students are competing to show off their mastery of skills, concepts and attitudes?

The assistant principal in our high school is looking at this video. It will be interesting to see if he brings this video or these ideas into the staff meetings.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Teaching Naked

Wow!  I've been mulling over the idea of teaching naked, the last couple of days since I first saw this posting on Dean Sharski's blog.  My initial thoughts were wait a second.  Content is supposed to be what we're all about in schools.  Then Jose Bowen turned up again on the NPR all tech considered podcast, and I started to more fully understand his ideas about turning learning around.  He contends taht students come to class without any understanding of the subject, listen to a lecture, study like crazy and try to show that they understand.  Instead, he proposes a model where students listen to the lecture ahead of class, take a quiz or some other assessment to show that they listened to the material, and then discuss and explore the content in class.  As he states in the video above, most lectures last for 48 minutes and then have 2 minutes of questions, this way he can offer the same content and fifty minutes of questions.  To me these are powerful ideas.  I've already shared them with our high school faculty.  Several of the teachers are interested in giving it a try.

Then I drilled into Jose Bowen's site a little and found a set of podcasts that serve as the listening ahead of class for hs hstory of jazz course.  I listened to the bop and hard bop podcasts. I was struck by the fact that at the beginning of this podcast, he launches in right away noting that any categories are provisional, and this is just one way to organize and categorize the whole movement of Hard Bop.  Reminded me right away of David Weinberger and Everything is Miscellaneous. Very interesting ideas.  Even Bowen's old courses at Georgetown look like they built on diverse ideas. Anyone who can incorporate Wagner into a course on politics and culture has a lot of interesting thoughts.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Start of School - More

Tomorrow is the big day.  Summer vacation is over. Yesterday a colleague sent out a list of software items to cover during the extra time teachers will have during Ramadan. (UAE Ministry of Education guidelines have our school opening later and ending earlier for those students who are fasting [refraining from eating or drinking during the day, but often staying up late at night]).  The list reproduced below, bothered me.  At first I could not figure out why.  Then I realized it was just a list of software.  It was not addressing the "so what?" question.  If we are to be serious about integrating technology in meaningful ways, the technology needs to solve a problem for teachers in some way.

Please note that these topics are not all-inclusive. Attendants will bring questions.
First Class
  • Answer any questions about FC attendees may have
  • Web publishing
  • Mailbox Rules. Blocking Spam
  • Organizing your mailbox
  • Creating and managing Conferences and the users
  • Other minor items such as: Changing icons, Creating email templates, Recording your voice
  • Answer any questions about PowerTeacher attendees may have
  • Logging in, changing passwords
  • Gradebook setup. Straight points, Weighting and Standards
  • Printing reports
  • Creating class groups
  • Exporting gradebooks as spreadsheets
  • Comments for Assignments and Students (Comment Banks)
Directory Server
  • Logging in
  • Moving files around (Drop Box)
  • Using the Public web publishing folder
ACS Services/Software/Hardware
  • Subscription Services that ACS offers including: Library Subscription Services, Unitedstreaming, Brainpop, Nettrekker, Turnitin, Wordpress MU, MyAccess, etc. (exact dates/locations TBA)
  • OpenOffice (exact dates/locations TBA)
  • Promethean Interactive Whiteboards (exact dates/locations TBA)
  • Tinkerplots (exact dates/locations TBA)
  • Google Docs (exact dates/locations TBA)
  • Video and Still Camera usage (exact dates/locations TBA)
My suggestion was to reorganize the list according to problems that teachers might be having:
How do I share stuff with other teachers and students?
- Directory server
- FC web publishing
- FC folders

How can I communicate more effectively with parents, students, colleagues and admin?

How do I do my grades and reporting?

How do I create my class help page?
- FC web publishing

How can my students collaborate on documents?
-Google docs
- Word Press MU

How do I do ordering?

How can my students keep a reflective journal?
-Word press MU

How can I handle documents in different fomats?
-Open Office
-iWork tools

How can I take, organize, and share pictures of class activities?
-digital cameras
- directory server

How can I take, edit and share video?
-digital video cameras

How can my students improve their writing?

How can I pre-record and record my visuals for class
-Promethean white board

How can I share text, and artifacts, visual activities with my class?
-document camera

How do I prevent plagiarism in my classes?

What video libraries are available for my class?
-United Streaming

How do I create quick interactive surveys of what my students have learned?

This seemed like a better way to focus on teacher and student needs.  I also thought it would improve buy-in from the teachers.  My colleagues agreed with me, but it missed going out to the new hires, who got he original version.  The good news is that the conversation has already started to shift. I'm confident next time around we'll all be thinking about how to solve teachers' problems, instead of just giving them some tools that may be useful.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Going back to school

Summer vacation is almost over. It's back to school the day after tomorrow.  Four days of in-service and then the kids start.  I've been thinking about what I'd like to focus on this year.  More and more its' coming back to the idea of presentations.

The question is how to work with teachers to improve the presentations that their students are doing.  Step one in this journey is going to be to approach the administration and ask for their support in improving student presentations and what that those might look like. 

We're going to be working within a Ramadan schedule which means late starts and early dismissals.  It also creates a lot of space for working with teachers on ther tech skills.  One of my colleagues sent out a proposed list of topics.  My biggest concern is that this list was all focused on different technology tools.  I don't think that there will be much uptake in the presentations offered. I think in a school, we have to be focused on what problems the students and teachers are having and what technological solutions can make their lives easier.  In this case, the curricular problem is powerpointlessness.  Too many presentations in school are just bullets and talking points.  I think the introducations to wikis and blogs also needs to framed similarly, otherwise, no one will use them.

The tie in for the admins is that this all fits very much into our school's mission of 21st century skills ( Communication and Collaboration), and within the ISTE NETS standard 2b of "communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats." It is cross curricular, and can be used in any subject. It also fits with 6b "select and use applications effectively and productively." and 6d "transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies."

Garr Reynolds
also writes about Pecha-kucha, the Japanese movement of 20 slides each for 20 seconds (6 minutes 40 seconds in total).  I might try running this as a club and see if I can get seven or eight students to prepare presentations and then have a competition of sorts one evening with the admins, and maybe some external people as judges. 

These two prongs will hopefully help improve our students' ability to produce effective presentations.  This is a skill that will stand them in good stead long after they graduate

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

High Noon

I just finished reading Jean Francois Rischard's book, High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to solve them. I was very pleased to see global poverty as one of his main underlying themes.  Knowing that such passionate and intelligent people are running our world institutions is very heartening. 

Rischard's main thesis is that two forces are shaping our future.  One is the demographic explosion, with the world's population forecast to reach 8 billion by 2025. Rischard sees no good in any of the implications of population growth.  However, the other force, that of the New World Economy, which basically finds new ways to do everything, abounds with opportunities.

Others have blogged about his list of twenty global problems, so I won't reiterate the list here.  As an expat living abroad in what is basically a tax free haven, I am not fond of the idea of the Canadian government instituting worldwide taxation.  I am not the American model of wordwide taxation is particularly effective.  Currently the foreign earned income exclusion is currently set at $87, 600.00, and $18.4 billion dollars claimed as exclusions, which is about half of what US citizens earn abroad.

Rischard proposes two possible solutions.  One is for people to come together in global issues networks (GIN) around each of these twenty issues. (he does acknowledge that there may be additional issues).  Each GIN would enlist members from governments, business, and NGO's. Essentially, each GIN would draft benchmarks and then score each country with respect to the progress they were making towards meeting that benchmark.  His alternative solution is to use the G7 structure and add additional countries to create "G20's" made of responible ministers around each of the 20 issues.  He sees this solution as less desirable as it's track record so far has not demonstrated that it has the agility and flexibility needed to address these issues in a timely manner.

This book was written seven years ago.  Rischard was right on the money when he wrote that global financial architecture was an issue that needed a global regulatory approach.  However, we are now a third of the way through Rischard's twenty year timetable.  While reading the book, I was thinking how depressing for him, none of the solutions he proposes have been taken up.  Neither the Global Issues Networks, nor the G20 models.  The urgency around these issues, even global issues has not gained traction.

Rischard also displays a great openness to new ideas.  At the conclusion of he book, he asks for reader input at his website  Unfortunately, this domain has expired and is now parked, so there is no way to evaluate the quality of responses he received.