Relevant, just-in-time learning

October 19, 2010 at 11:06 am | Posted in Conferences, Education | 1 Comment
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The key theme for me, that came through the ulearn conference was about relevance. We need to ensure that what we are teaching has meaning; has a point for our students.

For many years (many) educators have taught things ‘just-in-case’ it is in a test or examination. However these things that are taught often have little meaning on their own.

Lane Clark, in her keynote, said two very important things:

Are we teaching for their future, or our past?

Teachers often bring in relevance at the end of a topic, when it’s finished.

We need to make the learning relevant from the start!

Lane pointed out that as adults we go into a project/research knowing the relevance – why we want to research it; what is the point. But for some reason, teachers often hold off with the relevance of a topic to the very end.

Why do we do this? Is it for control? I don’t know the answer, but I know that I’ve been guilty of doing it!

Relevant learning could include real-life or authentic learning. Immersing students in a real-life situation where questions can be generated and problems solved. This is not simply placing learning within a context, but actually placing the students in real-life learning situations.

I’ll leave you with this:
Is the teaching and learning that occurs in your class relevant to your students? Is the teaching and learning relevant to today and the future?

Ulearn 2010 – Day 3

October 9, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Posted in Conferences, Education | Leave a comment
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Well after a spectacular conference dinner at the end of Thursday, things seemed a bit quieter on Friday with many people tired and recovering. Here are a few notes from the breakout sessions I attended and the final keynote. I was one of the tired ones so my notes ended up being a bit shorter and my tweets were also fewer! But here goes…

Breakout 5: Leigh Duncan & Waveney Bryant – Environmental education and ICT – an unlikely combination
  1. Garden to table programme:
  2. Teach students to grow, harvest and prepare food
    Positive influence of food choices

  3. Don’t hold back – teach from early on to use knives (chef knives etc) in the kitchen. (so that students are ready to go for it at year 3)
  4. Authentic, relevant learning occurring where kids grow food, cook food – then put into place at home as well!
  5. Kids go home buzzing after ‘garden-to-table’ programme – it shows that is effective and engaging!
  6. – Meadowbank school wiki for environmental education.
Breakout 6: Derek Wenmoth – Future focused schools

I wish that this breakout had been earlier in the conference. Derek had so many good things to say but I didn’t manage to record them all.

  1. On the site of a future school. Some things to think about:
    1. · What would kids learn

      · How would they learn?

      · When would they learn?

      · Who would they learn with?

      · What would they learn on or with?

      · Where would they learn?

      · How will they/we know when they have learnt?

  2. We need to be thinking about educating for the future rather than educating in the future.
  3. “Organisations that are built to change have a clear sense of who they are and what they stand for.” – Lawler and Worley (2009)
  4. Learning should be part of the DNA of an organization/school. Not just students learning, but all learning!
  5. Educators need to speak to each other, bounce off ideas and draw from best practice. Share what we’ve got with each other!
Keynote 4: Professor Stephen Heppell

I’m not sure if there was a title to this keynote address. I certainly didn’t get one. Professor Heppell was humourus, relaxed and inspiring. In an unusual style he seemed to be chatting about education through retelling personal stories. It was a very effective presentation style.

  1. Experience vs expertise – experience is so important. More than just writing/talking about it – it’s actually practised!
  2. Stop talking about 21st Century learning. (We’re 10% into the century!). It’s difficult to talk about what schools could be like in the 21st century when we’re already well into it!
  3. Every turned off device is a turned off child”.
  4. Let the children go for it! Don’t limit them with our limitations.
  5. UK Minister of Education says that teachers need to be given professional freedom – ministry needs to ‘let go’. (a bit different to ours in New Zealand!)

That’s 5 key points for this keynote, however I want to add a couple of quotes from Heppell himself:

“When people come to their senses and stop talking about standardized tests…”

PDF = pretty dull format


So that’s the end of ULearn 2010. It was a fantastic conference and I really hope to attend next year! Over the next few days I hope to reflect a bit more about the conference and get down some general thoughts or key ideas that seemed to be coming through from the keynote speakers (and also through some of the breakout sessions.

ULearn 2010 – Day 2

October 7, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Posted in Conferences, Education | Leave a comment
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Well it’s been another great day at ULearn! Lane Clark started the day with a very good keynote and the day will finish later tonight with the conference Gala Dinner. I’ll stick with no more than 5 points per speaker.

In breakout 4 I presented with Sandy Dougherty. You can see our presentation in my previous blog post.

Keynote 3: Lane Clark – Learning to learn: it’s bigger than inquiry

Lane Clark is a good speaker. She has some very good ideas however I was a little distracted by her very busy (some impossible to read) slides. Here are a few points from her keynote.

  1. “Are we preparing learners for their future or our past?” – This was an interesting way to start. Some teachers do teach in the way that it’s always been done, and it may not be relevant to our students now or in the future.
  2. The best learning takes place when it is RELEVANT. “You don’t figure out why you did the learning at the end of the journey. You know it at the start.”  -  I know I’m guilty of teaching students lots of information and then trying to make it relevant. We need to make it relevant from the start!
  3. Our job is to help students pick the right tools to use in order to learn.
  4. Our job is to keep the brain engaged!
  5. Teach our kids how to learn.
    Teach them how to think.
    Teach them how to think in order to learn.
Breakout 3: Craig Cummings & Kirsty Forsyth – An Inquiry Approach for 21st-Century Learning

This breakout session was very similar to the keynote, as both focused on inquiry learning. Craig and Kirsty are involved in inquiry learning and have used/adapted some of Lane Clarks tools. – handouts and more available

  1. Make learning authentic and real!
  2. Immersing students in a topic is a great way to get them involved and interested.
  3. Learning should be engaging and stimulating!
  4. If students aren’t engaged then will they be learning? Will they be learning well?

The key theme for both the keynote and breakout 3 for me was… Make learning relevant to students!

Ulearn presentation: Effective online teaching and learning

October 7, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Posted in Conferences, Education | Leave a comment
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Sandy Dougherty and I presented at breakout 4 at ulearn on effective online teaching and learning. It was the first time I had presented outside of my school. I think it went well and have had some positive feedback. We looked at some online tools that we had used in online teaching. I’ve embedded the presentation below (done on Prezi), but as it was an interactive session, I’m not sure how useful they will be.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Effective online teaching and learning, posted with vodpod


ULearn 2010 – Day 1

October 6, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Posted in Conferences, Education | 3 Comments
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Wow! What a great start to a great conference! I’m going to try to highlight the key points of the day. Basically my aim is to pick out no more than 5 points for each session. So here goes…

Keynote 1: Lee Crockett – Understanding the Digital Generation

Lee Crockett was a very good speaker. One of the things that I got from this keynote session was not so much what Lee was talking about but the style of his presentation slides. Very few slides had any writing on them. Most were just an image that supported what he was talking about (not diagrams, just pictures). A good thing to remember for presentations I have to do.

  1. Children are maturing very fast. This is due to digital bombardment and is happening outside of school. Their brains are developing very fast.
  2. The brains of our students are ‘hyperlinked’. They have developed in a very different way to us. We have developed linear connections. Students’ brains connect in all directions and continuing to change all the time physically and chemically.
  3. F-pattern of reading. Our students will not read the bottom part of a page unless it is really engaging.
  4. Digital learners prefer to process images, video and sound BEFORE text.
  5. Digital learners prefer to learn ‘just-in-time’. Teachers often teach ‘just-in-case’. Digital learners prefer learning that is relevant, active, fun.

One key to this keynote is for us as teachers to be fully aware that our students are different to us. They learn in different ways. This isn’t to say that they should learn in ONLY the way that seems suits them best. They need to learn in a variety of ways, but we as teachers must also not get stuck in teaching the old traditional ways.

Breakout 1: Mark Treadwell – Whatever were we thinking? – How the brain works

Well, my laptop had a very flat battery for this breakout, so I only got a few notes down.

The main part to this breakout was that most peoples understanding of how the brain works is quite an old understanding. Many have not moved on from believing that neurons are the brains pathways (or only pathway). The human brain also creates learned pathways with astrocytes. These are the pathways that form so that you don’t have to think about repeated actions (eg. sitting down or driving to work at 8am every morning). The astrocytes map the repeated patterns.

Breakout 2: Trevor Bond – Learner Questioning: Making a difference

I was really keen to hear what was to be said at this breakout session. I’m really keen to not only develop good questioning myself, but also for my students to learn to question effectively. This was a big help towards this.

Trevor’s wiki

  1. Neil Postman – “Questioning is the most important intellectual tool”.
  2. Kids when they’re at home ask over 50% questions.
    Kids at preschool ask about 5% questions.
    At high school 99.8% of the questions are asked by teachers – 0.02% by students.
  3. We, as teachers need to encourage questioning (students are actually scared of asking questions during to negative, “angry” response from teachers. – We must change this attitude!
  4. Core skills for effective questioning:
  5. · Identify the need/problem
    · Identify relevant contextual vocab
    · Ask a range of relevant questions
    · Take them to a variety of appropriate sources
    · Persist, editing questions as necessary until you get the information you need.

  6. We must also make sure we (teachers) are asking good questions! Modelling is so important!
Keynote 2: Steve Wheeler – Transformation and inspiration through social media: meeting the needs of the 21st Century learners

I was really keen to hear Steve Wheeler speak today. I’ve started following his blog recently and he has a lot of good things to say. Here’s just a little bit of what he had to say today…

  1. Every new technology has people against it. It’s important that teachers take the technology and use it effectively.
  2. Get a vision! – Helen Keller – “… it must be tragic when you can see but have no vision.”
  3. Teachers should be LEADING the change not REACTING to it!
  4. Schools are like airlines: sit in rows; put your trust in someone you’ve never met; turn off all electronic devices. – – Let’s use these devices!
  5. What do this generation of learners need?
  6. · Digital literacies – are websites accurate? Trustworthy?
    · Engaging and fun – eg. Games; interactive narratives; role play simulations
    · Personalized learning – go back to ‘just for me’ environment.

And one more thing…
· Arthur C Clarke – “Any teacher who can be replaced by a computer… should be”.

Here’s Steve’s blog.


All-in-all this was a great opening day! I can’t wait for tomorrow!

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