Monthly Archives: March 2017

Collaboration in Learning. Transcending the School Walls

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

Mal Lee and Lorrae Ward published their research on the growing school – home nexus in 2013 in their ACER Press publication Collaboration in Learning: Transcending the School Walls. That work not only examined the nature of the collaboration in case study schools in the UK, US, NZ and Australia and its many benefits, but also the importance of developing a mode of schooling and teaching apposite for an ever evolving digital and increasingly socially networked world.

Lee elaborated upon that work in ‘Digital Technology and Student Learning’ (2014) and fleshed out how schools in their genuine collaboration with their homes could markedly improve the student learning. By

  • improving the home – school collaboration
  • empowering the parents and students and furthering their understanding of what is being learnt outside the classroom
  • making learning more relevant and attractive
  • lifting time in learning
  • adopting more individualised teaching
  • making greater use of peer supported learning
  • teaching more in context and
  • making apt use of increasingly sophisticated technology

the belief was schools should be able to markedly improve each child’s education.

The intention here is not to elaborate upon that work nor is it to repeat the points made in ‘Home – School – Community Collaboration’ (Lee and Broadie, 2016), but rather to comment on the developments that have occurred since writing the earlier works, and to place the developments in context.

What is increasingly apparent is that genuine home – school collaboration and teaching and learning that transcends the classroom walls is primarily a feature of a higher order mode of schooling. It is likely to be found only in those schools that have a digital operational base, recognise the learning happening outside the school walls and which are of a mind and have a culture accepting of genuine collaboration. While as indicated (Lee and Broadie, 2016) educational leaders and governments have for decades extolled the benefits of home – school collaboration and spent vast monies and efforts in the quest, genuine collaboration – except in some niche school settings – doesn’t take hold until schools have gone digital, begun to socially network and are of a mind to nurture the desired collaboration.

What is also clearer is that genuine collaboration between the school, its homes and community is critical to the on-going digital evolution of schools, the shaping of school ecosystems that merge the expertise and resources of all the teacher’s of the young and in time the development of a curriculum for the 24/7/365 mode of schooling. Until schools are ready to collaborate, to listen to their homes and the young, to value the contribution all parties can make to the 24/7/365 teaching of the young and have in place a culture and digital infrastructure that will facilitate the collaboration they have little chance of creating and resourcing the desired ever evolving school ecosystem or of providing an instructional program for a socially networked community, that successfully involves all the teachers of the young. Rather the schools will continue as insular, site fixated teacher controlled organisations, increasingly divorced from the real world.

Genuine collaboration is thus one of the critical steps in the school’s digital evolution.

With the benefit of hindsight and the opportunity to examine the operations of schools that have moved beyond the Digital Normalisation stage it is also clearer that in genuinely collaborating with the student’s homes and the community in improving the education provided the schools will – without any significant extra effort or expense – also simultaneously enhance the school’s

  • social networking
  • ecosystem
  • resourcing
  • administration and communication
  • marketing and promotion, and
  • growth and viability.

Genuine collaboration with the school’s clients in the school’s prime business – the holistic education of its young – will in a digitally based, socially networked school largely naturally fuel the growth of the total school ecosystem.

While the silo like nature of traditional schooling inclines one to consider the teaching and learning – the educational element – in isolation, the situation within increasingly integrated evolving complex adaptive systems obliges all associated with the school, but in particular its leaders to always look at the integrated totality, and how the enhancement of a critical facet of the ecosystem will likely impact all the other parts.

Within an integrated school ecosystem the old division of operational responsibilities largely disappears. The focus is on the desired learning, with the school looking to use whatever it deems appropriate to enhance that learning. It matters not if it makes use of a community organisation, a communications tool, a student team, an online resource or a combination of ‘resources’. What matters, is the desired learning.

Achieve genuine collaboration in the learning and the school will be well positioned to continually grow its total ecosystem and productivity.

  • Lee, M and Ward, L (2013) Collaboration in learning: transcending the classroom walls, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee, M (2014) ‘Digital Technology and Student Learning’, Educational Technology Solutions – July 15 2014

 

Making learning addictive

We are increasingly addicted to our computers and phones. This is not an accident. The companies devising those online offerings that grab and hold our attention know precisely what they are doing. It was at a conference back in about 2008 that I first heard people talking about this, so the understanding of how to get people addicted to your website isn’t new. This was all brought back to my attention this week by New Scientist who reviewed a book by Adam Alter “Why we can’t stop checking, scrolling, clicking and watching”.

While we may decry the amount of time young people (and many older) spend glued to their phones, the article did make the point that we can also use technology to motivate good behaviours. In fact it doesn’t need tech at all, though tech can be very powerful in multiplying the impact of what you do to addict people to good behaviours.

What has made me put words into a blog is that the techniques being used to addict us to online systems are identical to the approaches being used by the schools that have gained the Naace Third Millennium Learning Award, which are a good sample of digitally-evolved schools. They have shown us in their videos what they do to increase engagement in learning by their pupils. These schools are essentially addicting young people to learning. I cannot see this as anything other than a good thing to do. The choice of where these young people will direct their attention to fulfil this addiction is entirely theirs. Their teachers and parents will suggest and guide so that they hopefully direct their learning attention to good things, and most young people want to learn the positive things life offers. Addiction to learning is in a completely different category to addiction to things that bring harm or merely absorb time.

Having pupils in your school addicted to learning also creates major spin-off benefits for the school staff and even the school budget. Pupils excited about learning, with an appetite for learning, who practise learning and reinforce the learning of others is what we all want. Teaching becomes a joy, achievement rockets and everyone in the school has the satisfaction of knowing their pupils are well equipped for the learning challenges they will continually face beyond school.

So what are these techniques to addict people. They are things that stimulate our brains to release dopamine, giving intense feelings of pleasure and making us want more. They are:
– Feedback
– Goals, which should be just beyond reach.
– Progress, through a sense of incremental mastery.
– Escalation, via progressively more difficult tasks.
– Cliffhangers, to produce tension that demands resolution.
– Strong social connections.

Anyone familiar with computer games knows how they use these techniques. But you will surely recognise that social networks are also using them to grab our attention.

These are also the defining characteristics of schools that are providing an education that surpasses good traditional learning:

1) Really good feedback, from the teacher, from lots of audiences through in-school celebration of work and collaborative activities, through parental and family engagement, and through involvement of the community.

2) Aspirational targets agreed by pupils, made possible because the schools have installed a growth mindset and made failure the first step to success.

3) A very strong focus on progress, which makes it easier to set agreed aspirational targets as all pupils can see clearly their progress, even if it is from a low base. Mastery is celebrated and rewarded through peer tutoring and many pupils taking leadership roles in the school (one third of the pupils have leadership roles in one school we have looked at).

4) Escalation of the difficulty of the challenges teachers set pupils as soon as they successfully master the original challenge. With ‘stretch and challenge’ resources available for pupils to independently move themselves on to.

5) Cliffhangers introduced by teachers in numerous ways such as timed tasks, deadlines to present work to other pupils, collaborative activities in which pupils challenge each other, performances, competitions and real-life tasks where pupils interact with others outside the school.

6) Strong social connections weaving their way through all of the above, through class discussions, collaboration, peer tutoring, class experts, pupil leaders, numerous audiences in-school and online, and high visibility of pupils’ output to others as a normal part of the work they do in school.

All this is of course possible without use of technology, but immensely more powerful when the school makes the online systems available to underpin all these. Visibility of work, audiences, collaboration and feedback, clarity of progress, availability of escalating challenges, and setting of high expectations can all be immeasurably stronger with effective use of technology. Not to mention the tools and resources for the work challenges that technology brings.

It is time that more schools realised that it is not enough to bemoan that children are becoming addicted to their phones. It is time to make what happens in school and in classes more addictive than the pleasures they get through their phones. And to use the fact that children have smartphones to complement, reinforce and make more addictive what happens in class, making children desire to continue feeding this learning addiction out of class.

This shouldn’t be hard given that schools have trained adults on site and the face-to-face social environment in which teachers can build addiction to learning, as well as what comes to children through their screens – provided of course that the school has not banned the pupils from bringing their mobile devices into school. The school’s online presence, together with real humans for several hours a day, can be much compelling than a cleverly designed algorithm.

Marrying the in and out of school learning

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

The rationale is simple.

Integrate the teaching and learning of the school with that happening outside its walls and the education of every child can be markedly enhanced.

Make better use of both the 80% of the child’s annual learning and teaching time spent outside the schoolroom and the 20% within and it should be possible to significantly lift national student attainment and productivity.

Astute socio-economically advantaged parents have for generations complemented the school’s teaching with their own, providing their children the books, the culture, the expectations and the teaching in context, anywhere anytime. If schools making astute use of the digital technology could assist more parents provide that kind of holistic 24/7/365 teaching many more children could benefit.

The young have of their own volition for the past 20 plus years embraced the use of the digital and the online in every facet of their lives, with the technology markedly impacting the thinking, expectations, learning and teaching of the Net Generation, the Millennials. Two decades of literature (Lee. 1996) (Tapscott, 1998) (Meredith, et al, 1998) (Green and Hannon, 2007) (Tapscott, 2009) (Ito et al, 2010, 2013) (Lee and Finger, 2010), (boyd, 2014) (Project Tomorrow, 2003 – 2016) (Lee and Levins, 2016) has documented the nature and profound impact of that seemingly chaotic laissez-faire mode of learning and teaching. It has moreover highlighted the almost complete absence or support for the out of school learning by the schools and government, and the very considerable potential yet to be tapped.

That said it also it is one thing to recognise the potential, to accept the rationale and another to begin harnessing that potential, particularly when most governments and education authorities have yet to adopt a digital mindset or understand the vital role schools can play in growing a socially networked society.

The task of marrying the in and out of school teaching and learning, of better and more productively integrating the efforts of the school, the homes and community has been largely left to the pathfinder digital schools globally.

Moreover it is a challenge being primarily faced by those digitally mature schools that are of a mind to reap the many benefits that flow from genuinely collaborating with all the teachers of the young in the provision of a 24/7/365 mode of schooling.

When your school reaches the evolutionary stage where it wants marry in the in and out of learning, it like the early adopters, should begin asking and addressing these kinds of questions: who

  • best teaches a particular attribute/concept
  • where
  • when
  • and what age?

For example who, or which combination of teachers in and outside the school walls best teaches

  • reading
  • digital literacy
  • quantum physics
  • the art of social networking
  • patience
  • teamwork
  • goal setting and time management

Do you continue with the prevailing belief that all of the above the teaching should only be taught

  • by a professional teacher
  • within the classroom
  • at the time determined by external curriculum experts?

Or do you work towards a distributed model of teaching and learning that actively involves all the teachers of the young, and where the school provides direction and support?

If you opt for the latter you need ask and critically identify

  • what competencies, mindset and expectations do the children – at different development stages in their learning – bring to the classroom?
  • what mode of teaching do they use outside the classroom and if it consonant with that within? Do the children employ the highly linear teacher controlled approach favoured by teachers or does their teaching with the support of their peers and the digital differ?
  • what form will the instructional program of a socially networked school community take?

Take for example early childhood students a year into their schooling. We know most have likely been using the digital competently for several years at home. The recent Erikson study (2016) found not only did virtually all the pre-primary use the suite of digital technologies in the home but that 85% of the parents were engaged in teaching the balanced use of that technology. What are the digital competencies that teaching partnership brings to the classroom in 2016? Perhaps equally importantly what mindset and expectations re the use of the digital technology do they bring? You won’t find the answer in any national technology syllabus, or even the likes of ISTE’s excellent 2016 Standards for Students. What might be the digital competencies and expectations of the 2018 intake of children?

Who within the school community best nurtures those competencies and expectations? Is it the parents, the students, the teachers or all collaboratively?

What kind of ‘instructional program’, what kind of matrix or guide should be used?

Where can the school look for support in tackling these questions?

The introduction of BYOT, the decision to trust the children to use the digital technology of their choosing, the expectation that those students will understand the general workings of their chosen kit and that the teachers will focus on applying the children’s competencies in higher order learning tasks obliges the teachers understand – at least in general terms – the digital competencies, mindset and expectations each child is bringing to the classroom.

This early childhood example constitutes a small but very real part of the kind of thinking needed when schools begin marrying the in and out of school teaching.

It is as flagged a very considerable undertaking that should be approached with the eyes wide open and gradually.

The task is likely to be too onerous for the one school. It is however one that can be tackled collaboratively by like-minded schools globally and indeed with the support of professional associations liaising with their international counterparts.

Conclusion

The key is to recognise that in embarking on the seemingly very natural and logical quest to coalesce the efforts of the school and the home you are in fact well on the way to fundamentally changing the nature of the school curriculum and creating one appropriate for a digital and socially networked world and the 24/7/365 schooling of the young.

  • Boyd, D (2014) Its Complicated. The social lives of networked teens Yale University Press – http://www.danah.org/itscomplicated/
  • Erikson Institute (2016) Technology and Young Children in the Digital Age. Erikson Institute August 2016
  • Ito et al (2010) Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out. Kids Living with the New Media Cambridge US MIT Press retrieved 20 June 2014 at – https://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/free_download/9780262013369%20_Hanging_Out.pdf
  • Ito, Mizuko, Kris Gutiérrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen, Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green, S. Craig Watkins. (2013). Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.
  • Lee, M (1996),‘The educated home’, The Practising Administrator, vol. 18, no. 3.
  • Lee, M and Finger, G (eds) (2010) Developing a Networked School Community, Melbourne ACER Press
  • Lee, M and Levins, M (2016) BYOT and the Digital Evolution of Schooling Armidale Douglas and Brown – http://douglasandbrown.com/publications/
  • Meredyth, D, Russell, N, Blackwood, L, Thomas, J & Wise, P (1998), Real time: Computers, change and schooling, Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Canberra.
  • Project Tomorrow (2011) The New Three E’s of Education: Enabled, Engaged and Empowered Speak Up 2010 National Findings Project Tomorrow 2011. at – http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup/pdfs/SU10_3EofEducation_Educators.pdf
  • Tapscott, D (1998), Growing up digital: The rise of the Net Generation, McGraw Hill, New York
  • Tapscott, D (2009) Grown up digital. How the net generation is changing our world McGraw Hill, New York

 

Engaging each learner

Mal Lee and Roger Broadie

In shaping the digital evolution of your school and creating the desired 24/7/365 teaching and learning environment we suggest it is important to address something schools have not done well – engage each and every learner.

Take advantage of the digital operational base and the opportunities opened by the digital to engage an appreciably greater percentage of the student cohort.

Despite generations of hype, and thousands of well-intended efforts schools globally have a long way to travel before they can seriously engage all learners.

With over a 100 years experience with schools between us we are realistic enough to acknowledge, that despite the important ideals of government and educators, schools as institutions might never engage every student but they can do appreciably better than now.

The Fall 2015 US Gallop Poll (Gallop, 2015) found 50% of secondary respondents were disaffected with the schooling provided.

While the figures might be vary slightly from nation to nation in all there will still be a significant proportion of the students disaffected, particularly within the secondary school and within the lower quartile of the primary school.

Thirty years ago Eckert in Jocks and Burnouts (1989) classically identified the 30% plus of students who knew how to play the ‘school game’ well and succeed, and the very considerable percentage of ‘burnouts’ who very early on lost interest in playing that game and succeeding academically at school.

Secondary schooling – whatever the local nature of the school game might be – is still failing too many students. Despite the many, often punitive, efforts of government, the percentage of students completing schooling has largely plateaued.

In many respects that should not come as a surprise in that the nature of schooling and the culture therein in most schools has not fundamentally changed in the last fifty plus years. The vast majority of schools, particularly high schools are still insular, paper based, risk adverse organisations focused on readying the ‘good’ students for tertiary entrance.

The movement to the digital operational mode, the young’s normalised use of the digital, the gradual shift in schools from a total preoccupation with teaching and learning within a physical place to the recognition that it can happen anywhere anytime 24/7/365 opens the way for schools at all levels to take risks and try new ways of engaging more students.

The digital and the socially networked is not going to be the answer for all, and most assuredly not overnight, but it does provide educators with a plethora a of options unavailable to those working with paper as the underlying technology.

Critically by going digital school can more readily look to:

  • move the learner to the centre and make learning more intrinsic
  • better individualise and differentiate the teaching and learning
  • shed the reliance on the physical site, and have the teaching and learning occur anywhere, anytime and in context
  • make learning and teaching more attractive and relevant for the full spectrum of students
  • recognise and build upon each students out of school digitally based mode of learning and self -teaching, passions and achievements
  • appreciate most young in their use of the digital don’t employ the traditional highly linear mode of teaching and learning
  • make greater use of peer teaching
  • take risks and try different modes of teaching, learning and assessment.

After 40-50 years of continued failure it is surely time to stop flogging a dead horse, to move from the one size fits all approach, to make greater use of in context teaching and learning and to try alternative approaches.

Seriously ask what percentage of your current cohort are disaffected or disengaged and how you could better use the digital to engage those students.

In asking that question look at the full array of students and appreciate that many of the capable students are as bored and disengaged as the less capable.

  • Eckert, P (1989) Jocks and Burnouts NY Teachers College Press
  • Gallup Student Poll (2015) Engaged Today: Ready for Tomorrow Fall 2015 Gallup – http://www.gallup.com/services/189926/student-poll-2015-results.aspx