donderdag 30 juni 2011

MSU2011: Educational Leadership and Tensions

Day 9 of the master program.. Two of the readings today are posts from Larry Cuban's weblog, one on "What It Takes To Lead a Fortune 500 Company, A Start-Up, and, Yes, Schools" and the other one on "The Dilemma of Leadership: Wanting Approval from Those Who You Must Judge". Larry Cuban's blog is one of my favorites. The posts are to the point, smart, and based on either recent developments or foundational educational issues.

The post on what it takes to lead a school lists five qualities that a leader should have: passionate curiosity, battle-hardened confidence, team smarts, a simple mind-set, and fearlessness. The good news is (according to the blogpost) that all of these behaviors can be learned. The bad news is that all of these qualities are personal traits, leading to the stereotype idea that "individual leaders can do it all", while we know that a leader can be succesful in one place and unsuccesful in another. Here too it all depends on the context in which you have to work. Or, as Cuban conlcudes, "the right personal traits might make a difference if they adapt to and work with the new setting rather than repeat behaviors that seemingly worked elsewhere".

The post on the dilemma of leadership is about the tension that principals feel: wanting approval (affection and respect) of the teachers you supervise, and at the same time having the responsibility of judging their performance. And this dilemma is true for teachers too: you want approval and trust from your students, but you also have to assess them. Cuban concludes this post with "Knowing one’s self well enough to sort out personal needs for approval and friendship from professional responsibilities as a teacher, principal, and superintendent is an essential lesson that novices have to learn but goes unmentioned and untaught. Yet leadership in classrooms, schools, and districts depend upon learning that lesson well."

Personally I think that leadership is needed to get more ict integration in teaching and learning. And I think that both educational managers and teachers need to have some kind of leadership. Teachers should have ideas, skills and knowledge on how to effectively teach with technology, they have to be able to help colleagues that don't have this and they have to be role models for their students (especially if these students are trained to be teachers themselves!). Educational managers have to show leadership in various ways. Not only by writing policy papers and allocating money to technology in education, but also by stimulating their teachers to use technology. How? Give them time, ask about their ideas, go look into their classrooms and stimulate other teachers to do so too... But I am aware of the fact that leadership and tensions are closely related, so what would happen if your principal or dean is walking into your classroom?? Would that be encouraging or threatening?? Or does that depend on your own leadership qualities?

some of the tensions mentioned by MAET students

Maybe educational leadership is all about tensions.. Tensions between individuals with conflicting interests/needs, seeking approval and passing judgment and maybe more? This morning the students here in Michigan list all kinds of tensions that you can encounter in education. They will be visually representing these tensions this afternoon individually (but with the help of the group): they will take photographs that represent the tensions we’ve discussed this morning. I am looking forward to this!


woensdag 29 juni 2011

MSU2011: Geocaching and Educaching

I was asked to tell something about an activity that I do all over the world: geocaching. Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. More information about this can be found on the website of Geocaching (they also have a short video). In relation to technolgoy integration/TPACK it is nice to think about the opportunities of geocaching in education. A quick search on the internet will lead you to a new word: Educaching!

Educaching has a close resemblance to mobile learning, but it takes the advantage of using gps technology. I did find some other links to teachers that actual do educaching with their students, but I will do some more searching on good examples to post on this blog. In the meantime you are welcome to look at the presentation that I used today.

MSU2011: Understanding by Design

Day 8 of the busy schedule of the MAET students at MSU.. Today's topic? Understanding by Design (Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe), a tool for educational planning focused on "teaching for understanding". The emphasis of UbD is on "backward design", the practice of looking at the outcomes in order to design curriculum units, performance assessments, and classroom instruction.

Traditionally we as teachers start curriculum planning with the textbook that we want to use instead of identifying classroom learning goals and planning towards that goal (and often we know that that should be the starting point). In backward design, the teacher starts with classroom outcomes and then plans the curriculum, choosing activities and materials that help determine student ability and foster student learning.

Understanding by Design is based on the key ideas that the primary goal of education should be the development and deepening of student understanding and this happens when they are given the opportunity to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize, and self-assess in authentic complex activities. In order to reach this the goals of the activity/course have to be clear first (and the method of assessment), and only after this is done the classroom activities can be designed. This process "helps to avoid the twin problems of "textbook coverage" and "activity-oriented" teaching, in which no clear priorities and purposes are apparent." (copied from Grant Wiggins website).

[The nice thing is that they also state that "teachers, schools, and districts benefit by working smarter through the collaborative design, sharing, and peer review of units of study", which is at the core of the research program of my research group Curriculum Design and Educational Innovation (CD&EI) at the University of Twente. And.. this is of course also happening at the MAET program. The students are constantly working together, discussing certain issues and giving each other feedback.]

As is often the case with these very nice ideas, it seems obvious, simple and intuitive. You start with identifying the desired results. Questions that should be asked are "what overarching understandings are desired? What will students understand as a result of this unit?" and "What are the overarching “essential” questions? What “essential” and “unit” questions will focus this unit?". After asnwering these questions you determine acceptable evidence (performance tasks, projects, quizzes, tasks, etc., but also observations and dialogues and student self-assessment) and only than you start to plan learning experiences and instructions. While doing this final stage you answer questions like "given the targeted understandings, other unit goals, and the assessment evidence identified, what knowledge and skills are needed? And very important: what teachings and learning experiences will equip students to demonstrate the targeted understandings?

I have to admit that I know that this is a good way to work, but I also have to admit that I often begin at the other side of the design.. And for someone who works at a department on curriculum design... this is.. mmm.. something to change!

dinsdag 28 juni 2011

MSU2011: Stories of Understanding (2)

Today is Jean-Jacques Rousseau's birthday (28 June 1712  – 2 July 1778). One of the Tweets of the MAET students (#MAET) mentioned a quote of this Swiss philosopher which relates to today's topic of understanding: "The noblest work in education is to make a reasoning man, and we expect to train a young child by making him reason! This beginning at the end; this is making an instrument of a result. If children understood how to reason they would not need to be educated.”.

Even though not everyone agrees with this (see the Wikipedia article on Rousseau), the same article argues that the theories of educators such as Rousseau's near contemporaries Pestalozzi, Mme de Genlis, and later, Maria Montessori, and John Dewey, which have directly influenced modern educational practices do have significant points in common with those of Rousseau.

But, following Rousseau's statement that if children understood how to reason they would not need to be educated, does this mean that all we have to do in schools is learn the children how to reason?

MSU2011: Stories of Understanding

Stories of understanding.. a personal story about having understood something, something that at some point in time moved/changed you deeply. That's today's topic. Based on three readings about understanding the students share many personal stories with each other. Some funny, some serious and some emotionally. From the stories several important aspect came up for me: understanding takes time, it happens when you get a new perspective on something or it will lead to a new perspective on something, and if you understand something everything around you changes and can be seen in a new light (and of course the word 'everything' has to be seen in perspective too).

example of creativity & understanding..
Understanding something is nice and gives you a good feeling. Or as Punya wrote: "We love to understand because it gives us pleasure. I think that we often ignore this aspect of learning", and integrating this idea in education he said "Teaching is about two things. 1. making the familiar strange; 2. making the strange familiar".

Today's topic relates to many of the discussions from the previous days: to misconceptions and the way our brain works, bur also to motivation and knowing your students and their current level of knowledge. And of course it also related to the use of technology in education. Using technology could (could! not necessarily always!) help in understanding things. Simulations of difficult processes is one example of using technology to support understanding as I wrote about in a previous post.

The students have to do something different to process the topic of understanding and to combine this with all the other things that they have learned and discussed. They have to write a grant proposal that presents how they would like to use new technologies to help develop student understanding within a specific subject area in a transformational way. While writing this proposal they have to use the TPACK framework. Until now TPACK has not been discussed.. but as I wrote before, the ideas behind TPACK are fully integrated in this course!

MSU2011: Creativity

The second week of the master program at MSU started with a whole day about creativity. And I didn't blog about this earlier today, because I did not feel creative... and that's not a joke, but when it comes to creativity I always feel a bit non-creative. Creativity comes from the Latin term creƍ, which means to create or to make. During lectures or presentation about creativity you will see and hear the most wonderful ideas that famous scientists and artists came up with. Sometimes very complex theories and models, sometimes simple games, but often very unexpected. Punya told the students that something is creative if it is novel, effective and whole. And the product has to combine all three aspects. Or, as it is described on Wikipedia "Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new (a product, a solution, a work of art etc.) that has some kind of value. What counts as "new" may be in reference to the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs. What counts as "valuable" is similarly defined in a variety of ways".

Can you learn to be creative? Or is creativity something that is within you ever since you were born? Probably the answer to both questions is yes. Some people are born creative and some people have to be stimulated to be creative, or to show their creativity. A logical place for this is school, whether it is elementary or secondary school or university. The reason why we need (the development of) creativity is because it appears to be an important component of problem-solving and other cognitive abilities, which is important for your own succes as well as the succes of society as a whole. But many people argue that schools are not stimulating creativity. The current situation at many schools throughout the world is that at school a child has to learn, he or she has to listen to the teacher and has to meet al the standards that are set by the school or the government. So no time for creativity, only time to learn.. One of my favorite videos on the subject is the one from Sir Ken Robinson. It's an entertaining video to watch, but it also has a clear message: education should nurture and not undermine creativity.

vrijdag 24 juni 2011

MSU2011: Behaviorism & ICT

Behaviorism is often seen as an "old-fashioned" way of looking at education, but the MAET students at MSU proved that there are very nice ICT examples that you can use in the classroom. To see how the principles are integrated in the examples, please visit the websites (and... the descriptions below are copied from the websites of the products, they are not meant as commercials...).

Behaviorism principle: chaining and extinction
Technology: Wolfquest
Description of the technology: An immersive, 3D wildlife simulation game, WolfQuest challenges players to learn about wolf ecology by living the life of a wild wolf in Yellowstone National Park.

Behaviorism principle: prompting and fading
Technology: Livemocha
Description of the technology: Livemocha's content allows students to learn with native speakers in a secure, fun environment.  They will build their vocabulary, grammar, writing and speaking skills and have invaluable cultural experiences along the way.

Behaviorism principle: classical conditioning
Technology: Grand Prix Multiplication
Description of the technology: Grand Prix Multiplication is a multi-player racing game for multiplication. Students race against each other to capture the Multiplication Cup. How quickly the student correctly answers the multiplication problem determines how quickly the race car will go. The student with the fastest rate of correct answers will win the race. Hits and misses are recorded and displayed at the end of the game, along with the student's rate. 1-4 players can play at once.

Behaviorism principle: positive and negative reinforcement and punishment
Technology: Khan Academy, practices
Description of the technology: The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere. All of the site's resources are available to anyone. It doesn't matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. The Khan Academy's materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.

Behaviorism principle: reinforcement schedules and shaping
Technology: ALEKS
Description of the technology: Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system. ALEKS uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS then instructs the student on the topics she is most ready to learn. A student who shows a high level of mastery of an ALEKS course will be successful in the actual course she is taking.   

MSU2011: Motivation

Today's topic in the MAET master class is motivation. An interesting topic. We discuss what drives people, how complex the nature of motivation is, Maslov's hierarchy of needs, the expectancy-value model, intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation, the great RSA Animate movie "the surprising thruth about what motivates us", and how to keep a balance between the skills of our students and the challenges that we should offer them (copy of one of the slides of the course..):

Motivation is a good topic for today.. it links to my thoughts about this master course. I am just a guest here, but I like to come here every morning. Why? It gives me inspiration for my research on TPACK and for the articles that I am writing at the moment in the afternoons, but it especially gives me new ideas about my own courses. The thing that motivates me most in this course is the dynamic way the students are working. They get information, they process it by listening, discussing, doing short assignments, going outside to make videos, etc. and all this not on just one topic, but on several topics that are very smartly arranged throughout the course. It's wat we in the Netherlands would call a "pressure cooker" approach: put a lot of things in a small space, let it cook and steam for a while and "voila" you get a quick, good and tasty result. And... TPACK has not been discussed (except for a very short 1-minute introduction in the first meeting), but TPACK is there. In the way the content is presented, in the way different pedagogical approaches are used, in the way the students make their assignments (each with a technology component), etc.. Very nice!

donderdag 23 juni 2011

MSU2011: Know your classics, but how to translate this to the classroom?

Day 4 of the master class in Michigan starts with some classics: Piaget, Kohlberg and Vygotsky. Kristen Kereluik, one of the teachers of the course, explains that the starting point for Piaget was that children are active thinkers, constantly trying to construct more advanced understandings of the world. They can develop their understanding by assimilation (the process of taking new information or a new experience and fitting it into an already existing schema) or accommodation (the process by which existing schemas are changed or new schemas are created in order to fit new information). He asked children to solve problems and questioned them about the reasoning behind their solutions and discovered that children think in radically different ways than adults. This lead him to believe that development occurs as a series of ‘stages’ differing in how the world is understood. To get a better idea of these stages, the students here in Michigan are asked to watch some videos (such as this one, this one and this one) of children in different stages and discuss their ideas about the videos. Some of the things that are shown in the video might be interesting to test with your own children :-) But Piaget's theory was challenged (as most theories are I guess). Newer studies indicate that infants do more than sense and react and that they might be able to reason at some level. So Piaget might have been underestimating children's abilities. There is also critique on the different stages and how children go from one stage to the other (without taking into account things like the social environment).

An other theory that is discussed in class is Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. Kohlberg assessed moral reasoning by posing hypothetical moral dilemmas and examining the reasoning behind people’s answers. He proposed several stages in which people develop in moral reasoning. I won't discuss this in much detail here, but two things are clear for me a) it is nice to have a lecture again on these theories, everyone will have had this information before, but a repetition is always good for remembrance, and b) the way people learn and learn how to reason is fascinating. It is our job as teachers to do something with this fascination when we are teaching.. Know your students, know where they are coming from (intellectually, but maybe also personally?) and use this knowledge when you are teaching. Probably many teachers will do this without even thinking about this, they have the "right" C, P and T integrated into their teaching habits, but I know from experience that there are also teachers who have difficulties with this...

The question for me is how much every teacher should know about theories like behaviourism, cognitivism, social learning, etc. And in what way should a teacher by supported to translate these ideas to thier own teaching practice? Do you have to learn this by listening to another teacher, or do you have to experience this by (guided) excercices? Probably it's a combination of the two.. The development of these things take partially place during teacher training, but someone's ability to teach and to account for PCK-related things is mainly influenced by real teaching experiences, because while experiencing one builds up knowledge, skills, confidence and a certain attitude toward education and teaching (Shulman, 1987). I am curious how the MAET students think about this..

woensdag 22 juni 2011

MSU2011: Movies and magic tricks..

Today's master class is primarily about cognitivism and this will lead to a video assignment. We start with a "magic trick" and the students have to figure out how it works. Do you understand it? Try! If you cannot figure it out let me know ;-) It's all about how our mind works and is a nice introduction to today's topic (cognitivism). The next step is watching a video from "a private universe project". In this project attention is paid to learning science and all the common (and recognizable!) misconceptions people have about things like the reason for the seasons. Misconceptions is an interesting thing.. it causes people to make up own theories and facts that are not alligned with the actual theories and facts. A well-known misconception is that thunder occurs when two clouds collide. There are several websites about misconcepteion, such as the New York Science Teacher, Experiment Resources, and a literature review. The trick is of course how to change the misconceptions of children and students. And that's a difficult job, because once you have in mind how something works, a teacher has to make a very convincing case in telling you why that is not the right explanation! What makes this even more difficult for teachers is that many textbooks have pictures in it that reinforce misconceptions! Teachers have to have a very good knowledge of the content and the subsequent pedagogical approaches to explain how things work. This combination of knowledge and skills is also known as the pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) of a teacher (Shulman, 1986).

While explaining things such as the reason for the seasons or the phases of the moon teachers can make use of several materials and tools. You can use balls, oranges, etc. as simulations of the earth and the moon, or you can make use of digital simulations, such as the one from the Univerity of Nebraska-Lincoln and the one from the National Schools' Observatory (and there are many more!). While using materials, tools or technologies teachers use their knowlegde about these materials, tools and technologies and try to combine this with content and pedagogy (and yes.. there's the link to TPACK!).

dinsdag 21 juni 2011

MSU2011: The long tail

This morning the master class starts with some feedback on a survey that the students filled in yesterday about their experiences and confdence with ict. The results are (in my opinion) very positive, the ict-things that people don't have experience with or confidence in are very specific things such as using databases and qr codes. The interesting thing is that Punya shows that the results of the students can be depicted in a "long tail" distribution. An explanation of this phenomena can be found for instance in Wikipedia or on the website of the book of Chris Anderson who introduces the term. Anderson focused on "the marketplace" and indicated that people or businesses are "increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of "hits" (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail." In other words: do not only focus on that what the general public wants, but look more closely to the things on the other side of the picture to see if you can find a niche market for specific products or.. specific target groups!
The question than of course is: how can we apply this to education? For instance: in this course the students are all using mobile phones, digital cameras and know how to use e-mail. Wouldn't it be interesting for some of the students to learn more about Flash? And for some other students to learn about QR codes? So, instead of giving information about something for a whole group about a topic that is interesting for only some individuals, you could tailor the course more to individual preferences. Sounds great! But on the other hand.. if you have to do this in all your courses.. what does this mean for the teacher? And especially for the flexibility of the teacher and his/her ability (or confidence?) to organise your course in this way? An interesting challenge! And maybe technology can help here? I wrote a related blog post about this last year during my own course. Still not sure how flexible a teacher should (or can!) be..

maandag 20 juni 2011

MSU2011: Attending the master program

This morning I am attending a meeting of the students of the "Master of Arts in Educational Technology". This program "prepares teachers, administrators, and other educational professionals for the thoughtful use of technologies to support teaching and learning in a range of educational environments. The program draws on current theories of learning and development to understand the role of technology in learning and instruction." (see http://edutech.msu.edu/masters.html).
Students can do this program either face to face or online. The students I meet today are online students, who come together in Michigan for 2 weeks. They have to do the Certificate program and after completing this the students apply to the MAET Online degree program. At this moment the students are in between these two programs:


Brandon, Kristen, Laura, Petra, Punya
After a short welcome by Punya the students are ready to "listen and learn", but.. they have to go outside to make pictures of themselves. Punya, Kristen, Brandon, Laura and me also took a picture of ourselves. Brandon did some Photoshopping and this is the result :-) Trying to break out the iPad! 
All pictures are shown and every student introduces him- or herselve!

After the introductions Punya presents Bloom's revised taxonomy, a model which classifies thinking according to different cognitive levels of complexity. Punya points out that in the new version of the taxonomy all words are verbs now and that Create is on top of the cone as the highest level of knowledge. After this Punya explains that during these two weeks the students will be looking at different theories of how we learn and how to transfer what we have learned to new contexts, but also to: how do we forget? Why do you remember certain things and forget others? And what drives us to learn? And of course: what is the role of technology in learning? How can we prepare our kids for a new world in which technology is completely integrated? And how should we as teachers be prepared for that? And Punya promises: the students will have plenty of opportunities to play with different kinds of technologies!

MSU2011: Visit to Michigan State University

I am very lucky to be able to visit the College of Education at Michigan State University during the upcoming two weeks! I will attend several Master and PhD classes to see how things work here and I will do some writing on articles that I really want to finish. Next to this I hope to have several discussions with Punya Mishra and his colleagues about ICT integration in education / TPACK. Because most of my visit will be TPACK-related I will write about my experiences on this blog. If it is really not related to TPACK (is that possible here?) I will post it on my Educational Innovation and Implementation blog..

vrijdag 10 juni 2011

ORD2011: TPACK, ict-integratie en docentontwikkeling

Dit bericht is onderdeel van een verslag van de Onderwijs Research Dagen 2011,
gekopieerd vanaf petrafisser.blogspot.com

Aan het eind van de tweede ORD-dag op 9 juni mocht ik samen met Danielle Townsend een rondetafelbijeenkomst verzorgen. Mijn onderwerp tijdens de rondetafel was de onderzoeksresultaten tot nu toe rondom het ontwikkelen van TPACK door middel van docentontwerpteams en het meten van TPACK. Danielle ging daarna in op de vraag of het professionaliseren van docenten voldoende is om structurele inbedding van e-learning in het onderwijs te bereiken.

Tijdens het gesprek over de onderzoeksresultaten die we tot nu toe op de UT hebben behaald (en waar ik ter ondersteuning een presentatie bij gebruikte) heb ik een aantal punten neergelegd waar wij op dit moment mee "worstelen". Het TPACK model is een mooi model, het is een herkenbaar model, er zullen weinig mensen zeggen dat het niet klopt. Maar.. als je er mee aan de slag gaat om docenten te professionaliseren, hoe doe je dat dan en voor ons nog interessanter: hoe meet je dan of dat wat je hebt bedacht ook effect heeft. Op dit moment wordt er wereldwijd gebruik gemaakt van de TPACK Survey. Ook wij hebben deze vragenlijst in verschillende onderzoeken gebruikt. En we zien ook dat docenten "groeien in hun TPACK" als je ze in docententeams laat werken aan een onderwijsprobleem uit de eigen praktijk waar ze dan ict bij in moeten zetten. Maar als je specifiek kijkt naar wat de TPACK vragenlijst meet, dan zie je dat veel items wel erg algemeen of abstract geformuleerd zijn (bijvoorbeeld "Ik kan ICT-toepassingen kiezen die versterken wat en hoe ik onderwijs geef"). Verder meet de vragenlijst jouw zelfingeschatte TPACK, dat wil nog niet zeggen dat je dat niveau van TPACK ook daadwerkelijk in de praktijk laat zien. Zoals je in mijn presentatie kan zien gebruikt een van onze promovendi meerdere instrumenten om TPACK te meten, waarbij ze de TPACK vragenlijst maar een van de 8 (!) gebruikte instrumenten is.

Er komt ook veel meer bij kijken dan je zelfingeschatte TPACK natuurlijk. Kennis, vaardigheden en attitudes zouden gemeten moeten worden (zoals ik al eerder blogde), maar ook dat wat docenten (in opleiding) in de praktijk laten zien aan materialen, producten en lessen. En het TPACK model blijft een mooi model, maar we moeten blijven benadrukken dat het geen simpele formule is als TK+PK+CK=TPACK. Of zoals ik net zag in een Twitterbericht van Punya Mishra: