iLearn iPod touch personalised learning project Journal 2: Critical thinking via the App store

iLearn iPod touch personalised learning project, Week 2 & 3:


This has been the part where the kids get very excited, something to do with the fact that they get their hands on the iPod Touch at this stage. Why do they get excited? Is it because the touch’s are so ‘cool’? Or is it in fact because they are so relieved to get to use something from the real world, something they are familiar with, when normally this only happens rarely at school? Up to this point, the students had not even seen the iPod’s; I’d made them wait so that we could work through some of the critical thinking goals of the unit first.
After a brief keynote demonstrating to the kids the basics of using the app store again and how to save a screenshot to record their choices, it was off to the space outside our admin block where we can access the wireless network. Obviously the wifi is crucial to this stage, and true to form, it was in and out, working fine for some lessons and not others. But they say that through trials comes learning and I was able to find couple of solutions to the wildest problems, although why the exact same settings work one hour and need to be re-entered another is still beyond me (3COM are you reading this?!).
Just as I’m asking the kids to continually be reflecting on the learning process, so am I attempting to do the same with the unit as a whole. So I’ve already made two adjustments, both arising out of conversations with members of my personal learning network. One was with a project officer who was interviewing me – the process of answering allowed me to reflect and also pick up on one of his ideas. So even though I had set verbal discussion moments up to occur every two weeks where the students reflected on their learning choices, I will now formalise this a little with set questions. The idea is that I can gauge their progress towards independent critical reflection by how much scaffolding they need to answer these questions, with the goal that they will need no help by the end of the unit. The second adjustment is that I found a free app where students can build T-charts to put down the pro’s and con’s of their initial app choice. This is how they will justify to me which ones need downloading (especially for the paid ones).
So that’s pretty much week 2 and week 3. The students have made their choice of a focus area based on their own learning data, and have narrowed down a choice of solutions (apps), with some even starting on completing T-charts to analyse these selections.
I’m still trying to get email setup on the devices so we can easily share content to and from them… But have been successful in getting assistance from our wonderful Principal and P&C to get some of the furniture resources (storage, lockable cupboards etc) that we desperately need.

iLearn project Journal 1


There were three jobs I had for this week if this mobile learning project with learning support students was to get off the ground:

1. intro the personalised learning approach to students

2. explain concept to staff

3. physical setup of space and devices

photo 3

Here’s some reflection on each of these:

1. very silly of me, but introducing the philosophy of students taking responsibility for their learning (via personalised learning using the iPod touch) was probably the area I found I had least through through. Selling the use of the devices was easy – but helping students grasp what would be expected of them learning-wise is a bit harder to do. My first intro sessions (with students in levelled groups of four) didn’t go so well at explaining this – I had to create a short keynote and incorporate a group mindmapping exercise before these sessions started to achieve what I’d been after. Live and learn. – I must say that being able to use a projector has also transformed this intro. I project up an image (say of a mindmap) which shows students instantly what me drawing and talking about would take a few minutes to do as well.

I’ve also now compartmentalised the steps involved in this first part. Students have just completed part 1 where they are introduced to the personalised learning challenge and have chosen their focus area. Next week is hitting the app store to find an app that will fit with their chosen focus.

2. This has gone well – staff are used to me trying new things etc. And all are supportive of creating self-motivated learners

3. This is proving to be the hardest area as it relies on others… Not that that is a bad thing, and in fact the other staff involved are great. But getting one thing in place (say a lockable cabinet) involves many steps and I’m not even sure if I can get the devices in students hands until next week even though they are here! – I have been able to get a special email account setup (thanks Kate!) so we can open an App store account. – Need to get the devices security coded and get some furniture supplies sorted…

I aim to keep reporting on our progress, good and bad! Love to hear from others also seeking to add personalised and challenge-based ubiquitous learning to their school environs.

I’m sick of teaching: OR all about my plan to grow self-learners (iLearn project preview)

Keywords: Personalised learning, challenge-based learning, digital pedagogy, iPod touch, OLPC XO laptop
As a learning support teacher, I happily spend my days teaching struggling and disadvantaged students in years 4-7 some of the basics that they have missed or have difficulty with. I see groups of four to five for 60 or 90 minutes a week for about half the year. Is that enough time for one teacher to ‘fix’ them, or have them ‘catch up’?

No. And yet for five years I have been content that the regular improvements 75% of them make each year are sufficient. But I’m changing my mind now. I’ve identified that in fact, much of the improvement I see is in danger of falling away once my regular but limited scaffolding and support is not available. Some of their classroom teachers are able to provide ongoing scaffolding also, but in a room of 28 needy kids, I ask how can learning support students experience ongoing success in their learning?

I recently blogged about just how many giant shoulders I feel I stand on in being awarded a Smart Classrooms Teaching Award and being a finalist in the Handheld Learning awards. Giants like my own Education Department’s Smart Classrooms framework, the Connectivism ideas of George Siemens, the ‘death of education but the dawn of learning’ thinking of Stephen Heppell, the ‘less us, more them’ philosophy of Gary Stager, the #eqelearn twitter network of engaged and dedicated Queensland teachers, fellow edtech bloggers (especially this post from shanetechteach and this one from josephperkins and this article), the Challenge-based learning tenets of Marco Torres and fellow Apple Distinguished Educators, the ‘addicted to learning’ mindset of Kristine Kopelke… All these and more have been percolating thru my mind over the last few months.

So in recent weeks when I asked ‘how can students experience ongoing success in their learning?’, an answer has started to emerge. Its probably not half as innovative or radical as I’d like to think, but it does reflect a big change in the way I’m going to approach my teaching. A change from incorporating bits and pieces of digital pedagogy into existing programs where I as teacher chose entirely what students needed to learn, to one where the presence of digital tools makes it possible for students to begin to take charge of their learning.

And I’m going to do it! I’m going to attempt to teach my students how to reflect and HOW TO LEARN rather than what to learn. With this skill and awareness, they will be able to succeed on their own.
Now, it is true that I’m only able to do this because:
  1. The ‘digital’ in this digital pedagogy ie. iPod touch’s and XO laptops are available to me in enough numbers now to be used by students as personal learning platforms
  2. I have a supportive local and regional administration
  3. I stand on the shoulders of the giants above
  4. My education department recognises how key ‘digital pedagogy’ is
  5. I feel confident enough to attempt it.
So what will this look like in practice? Well here is a draft diagram:

iLearn draft plan JN

View this in full size via posterous

Basically the plan is that students will reflect on what their learning strengths and weaknesses are and create an iLearn plan by selecting the learning tasks (in this case, XO activities or iTunes apps) that will help them improve. They will further be shown how to ask if their choice is in fact working or what other resources (podcasts, Smartpen ‘pencasts’ etc) they might incorporate as well. Finally, because data and assessment are still the be-all of the curriculum in which we teach, the original instruments and data which students based their iLearn plan on will be re-sat/ administered.
Sound ok? A bit simple? A bit …? Please all feel free to contribute feedback – in fact I’m inviting it. After all, why not ‘crowd-source’ a project like this and give it a better chance of success?

Over to you, and the kids…

Posted via email from Jonathan Nalder’s posterous

updated: TIME between TIMES: the joy of educating during a time of rapid technological change.

time b times wordle

In a few days, I get to present at a massive educational conference – Ulearn09 in Christchurch, New Zealand. This year there will be over 1700 educators present. I’m presenting the following paper. I publish it here now (and at Scribd) so attendees, but also the wider blogosphere and twitterverse can appreciate the great thoughts contributed by several distinguished educators from George Siemens and Stephen Heppell, to practicing classroom teachers. Enjoy! (UPDATE: slides of the presentation are now available at Slideshare HERE)

TIME between TIMES

: the joy of educating during a time of rapid technological change.

Which educator with even a vague interest in keeping pedagogy up to date hasn’t shaken their head when overhearing comments like these in staffrooms or education gatherings:

“I have a school provided laptop, but it just sits in my cupboard.”

“Our network is always down so I’ve just given up trying.”

“All mobile phones in schools should be banned.”

“I’m just a digital immigrant, so can’t be expected to learn that!”

“I’m retiring in 5 years, so I’m not going bother with technology.”

“You’re the guru, you do it!”

At my own large primary school with over 65 teaching staff, I sadly know of several for which the first comment holds true. Anyone reading this could probably similarly pick out the ones they have been exposed to. Day after day, and year after year of being an advocate for transformational learning in the face of these kinds of attitudes can have a pretty disheartening effect. Thank goodness that one of the benefits of the technology that so many educators still shun is that we can now access other colleagues via Facebook and Twitter who feel the same, but just as what is still most needed across nearly all Education sectors is not necessarily more money, but a total mindset change, so can we who are charged with leading change benefit from turning around our thinking.

The Digital revolution is a fast moving beast. Change is now a constant, not a once every now and then event. Mobile, wireless and cloud computing developments are leading very quickly towards a world of ubiquitous, or ‘everyware’ computing. Its no secret that Education has been slow to respond to rise of these technologies. In fact, a 2003 report into the ICT-intensiveness of 55 industries found that Education ranked … last. While its easy to get down about such a result, as well as the responses that many teachers still give today when invited to incorporate digital pedagogies into their students learning, there are plenty of great examples where educators have responded in wonderful ways to the digital revolution. I encourage you to seek them out, perhaps by visiting the sites of the distinguished educators you’ll find below who have responded to this:


This is the time between times for educators working with technology. Before mobile, ubiquitous and everyware computing become the invisible norm, but after a time when educators could sit back and wait for the digital revolution to pass on by. As slow as some in education have been to respond to rapid technological change, this is however the most exciting and dynamic time to be an educator of the educators because …

George Siemens, Canada.

Founder of ‘Connectivism’, Associate Director with the Learning Technologies Centre at University of Manitoba.

“I believe that we are seeing, in educational technology, a rare convergence of technological transformation and ideological development. Twin trends of this sort are infrequent, last occurring with the industrial revolution when (rudimentary) concepts of democracy compounded the trends of industrialization. In education, the last century has provided growing consensus of learning as a social and participative process. While not always ideologically aligned, thinkers like Dewey, Vygotsky, Piaget, Bandura, Bruner, Engestrom, Wenger, Lave, Pea, and others have emphasized the distributed, social, and multi-faceted dimensions of learning.

The last several decades has also produced an increase in technologies that enable participants to engage with information in a manner not seen in history. The rise of social networking services, participative web, and growth in mobile technologies and broadband access, provides a compelling argument for change. When the technological movement combines with the ideological shift in learning theory, the impact on education may be transformative. The future of education will be shaped by those who are able to anticipate and understand the impact of the dual forces of social learning and participative technology”.

Tony Vincent, USA.

Former teacher, now trainer and education consultant.

“What I love even more than teaching is learning. And in the changing digital and social landscape, I get to learn constantly and reinforce my learning by sharing it with others”.

Dr Tony Karrer, USA.

CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, a software, web and eLearning development firm.

“My only real formal learning on the metacognitive methods and tools that are the heart of the value I bring as a knowledge worker was by educators.  But I learned in an era of card catalogs, microfiche readers, notes on paper. There were no laptops or mobile devices; no instant access to trillions of web pages; no networks of millions of people; nor free access to thousands of new tools.  Educators today are in the midst of one of the most interesting transformations where individual knowledge becomes devalued but the ability to teach new metacognitive tools and methods is more important than ever”.

Toni Twiss, NZ.

Former teacher, now a director of eLearning for secondary schools and a  lecturer at Waikato University.

Of the opportunity we have to remind ourselves of and rekindle our passion for learning within a truly authentic context. We are forming our own new way forward, often through experimentation, and along the way are experiencing the feelings of satisfaction when something new is learned or achieved.  I think as teachers it is also a timely reminder of what it feels like to be a learner and perhaps at times a struggling learner.  We are put in the shoes of the very students we teach as we explore and experiment with the potential of new technologies and perhaps most importantly reconstruct and refresh understanding of our own pedagogy and practice rather than just doing what we have always done.

We are developing teaching methods to allow our students to be successful contributors to the world that they will be part of when they leave school.   It is exciting because by the choices we as teachers are making about what and how we choose to teach, we are helping to define the values and skills that we see as being key to the future”.

Shane Roberts, Australia.

Secondary HPE teacher, and Advanced Pedagogical Licence holder.

“The change in others that can be realised and witnessed is immense. This could be a time considered for preparation for anywhere, anytime learning and as such the phenomenon of educators learning from each other is a rising river. Innovators and early adopters can educate through means other than direct tuition which is impacting on the teaching and learning methodologies and practices experienced by today’s students. The range of devices available is also transforming ideas about teaching and learning, and the processes that distribute this teaching and learning.

Change is an exciting process, for me in particular as it means trial and experimentation are welcomed. Less effective or productive practices can be discovered, trialled and reported on without fear of being labeled incompetent – as long as learning is achieved and demonstrated. Accompanying this is the ability to gain feedback from a worldwide audience, leading to inspiration within one’s own practice.

Mathew Nehrling, USA.

Sr. Instructional Designer with a Fortune 500 telecommunications company.

“During a transition period like this, many minds are not in the box to solutions and ideas. Everyone is looking for how to integrate the new innovation (be it idea or technology).  After an innovation is standard, creativity is often stifled because people have the baseline as to ‘how it is’.

During the economic downturn as much off the world is having, it forces people to think about real, practical application.  It sharpens the focus like a sword.  How can you take the innovation and produce the greatest ROI?  It takes all the creative ideas and helps one hone in on what is practical.

We are at a point now where we have a perfect combination of the two. There is a technological revolution in anywhere, anytime computing, but with economic downturns, you have to focus on real, productive solutions, thus more energy is spent on what can be produced and static (data asphyxiation) is pushed aside”.

Emma Heffernan, Australia.

Manager Discovery Programs, eLearning Branch, Education Queensland.

“For the first time in history, students and teachers are consciously playing the same role; learners. Technology is a great democratiser of education. It is no longer expected that educators hold the knowledge to impart to their learners, rather that we are all learners. The role of the educator is evolving to one of true facilitator, guide and model learner. We have unprecedented access to people, information, resources and wisdom, and as we develop new ways of learning and working we are reshaping our view of education and schooling”.

Professor Stephen Heppell, U.K.

Founder, Ultralab and

“Because we are in a world recession. Every past recession has seen a step change for New Learning as Keynesian investment boost the new, rejects the old and favours public service; because we have moved from the flat start of technological progression’s exponential curve to the steep part. Where before we had good time to reflect on small changes, now we have little time to reflect on momentous changes – that means there is no time for a top-down quality control model and we must rely on people, practitioners and communities for judgement for what might be effective;

Because technology destroys cartels: music, automobiles, banks and more. Those who sought to build value from vast scale and barriers to new competition see their walls crumble as a people’s century erodes their foundations. It was people that called time on recorded music and rediscovered live performance; it’s small local mutual banks that have survived. Learning is about people, not corporations.

Because all the old certainties of a last century world of factory schools with its formulaic rigours of “met before” learning have palpably failed to meet the needs of a world full of surprises and the unexpected. It’s the death of factory education and, as I have often reflected before, the dawn of learning..


And the winner is … ? Based on all the above responses, and a word count/analysis, LEARNING is now king, and being a learner the key to educators finding a place in 21st Century learning. Many thanks to all the respondents for their key contributions.

- Jonathan Nalder, August 2009.