Sage on the Screen – Education and Media Technology

sage-screen_webThis interested book written by Bill Ferster organises itself through chronological developments in technology. Ferster captures each development as a history of progress and relates it to the growth of modern pedagogy. The contents pages looks like this:

  1. Traditional Media
  2. Interactive Media
  3. Hypermedia
  4. Cloud Media
  5. Immersive Media
  6. Making Sense of Media for Learning

The temptation here is to see such a structure as a rubric that we are moving through. One could argue that traditional media for instance could be prestructural on the SOLO Taxonomy, and immersive media is the extended abstract. This notion led me to reflect on my own practice, which I would argue fits in the cloud media space – streaming media, MOOC’s, flipping, are all embedded in some way into what I do. From the rubric perspective, this book gave me an insight into what education is moving towards.

The historical approach to this book led to some interesting evaluative comments about the introduction of media technology into education. In the formative years, as cinema, radio and television all emerged, application of these mediums into education settings appears to be ineffective coming from the perspective of transformational pedagogy. The case study put forward here of American Samoa where congressional funding was used in the early 1960s to create instructional televised lessons which were used for up to 30% of the learning time. “The top down, autocratic nature of the American Samoa experiments is typical of how many educational technology projects are implemented” (36). Professional capital was absent from this approach, and therefore the technology – at best – only substituted the teacher’s practice rather than enhanced the learning.

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The book then documented the attempts of technology to create learning experiences that were not passive, or linear in their implementation (42). Learner agency developed with the introduction of more interactive media, but needed to move in alignment with developments in pedagogy. Where traditional media, like films, offered teachers a break, the shift to interactive forms of media required a different set of teaching skills (70). The disconnect between the technology and the implementation had begun – something which is visible now in a BYOD environment where students might still be experiencing no fundamental change in the instruction because pedagogy has not moved alongside the technology. (Represented by the first level of the SAMR model).

When exploring hypermedia, Ferster argued that “using multiple (but appropriate) forms of media together can often be more effective than any single media form alone” (88). This was supported by Richard Mayer’s research into the principles of multiple-channel learning:

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This research presents  a compelling argument for blended learning, but what technology to blend? The media technology that could potentially feature in classrooms has never been more diverse. This is evident in the immersive media chapter, where virtual reality and augmented reality are explored. The challenge in laid down in the final sentence: “if instructors can come up with compelling uses for the new capabilities these tools afford, immersive media may indeed join the pantheon of instructional media forms” (158).

My major takeaway is that the human element is fixed element in any pedagogy. Many media products “assume that all students come to instruction with the same amount of preexisting knowledge and learn at the same pace;” however, a good teacher can optimise this tool and create learning opportunities for the right students, at the right time and the right place (171). The human element is the most important factor in learning, and no modern media or medium can replace it… yet.


Ferster, Bill. Sage on the Screen: Education, Media, and How We Learn. John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, Maryland. 2016.

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What Great Teachers Do Differently – Part I

The difference between more effective teachers and their less effective colleagues is not what they know. It is what they do (xiii)

41204q11wal-_sx313_bo1204203200_What Great Teacher Do Differently was a super summer read from Todd Whitaker. This blogpost is just a capture of his first 7 main points (the books is subtitled ‘the 14 this that matter most’) and a few thoughts that those chapters provoked.

1.It’s People Not Programmes

Improving teachers or getting better teachers are the best ways to improve a school. People make the biggest difference. But people are all different, and what is effective to one person isn’t going to be effective to someone else. I am a remarkably different teacher to the colleagues that I work most closely with. To pick up a programme or a plan of theirs and take it into my classroom is a mistake. People make the difference: not just myself as a practitioner, but the students in every class are different. No programme can be the solution; people have to be at the centre.

2. Power of Expectations

The start of the year is the chance to set the tone and to frame positive expectations of the behaviour of the students. The book doesn’t mention it but I kept thinking of the ‘don’t smile until Easter’ mantra that some of my colleagues still mention (and possibly even employ). I couldn’t think of a worse way to create expectations than not smiling. That kind of approach leads to setting rules (being responsive to behaviour) rather than expectations framed as positive and welcoming statements.

3. Prevention Versus Revenge

My takeaway from this chapter was the reframing of the toolkit of behaviour management strategies. The point Todd made here was that every teacher has a list of options they may take when a situation arises (eye-contact, send to the Dean, praise another student for the correct behaviour etc.). However, the point is which of the list of strategies always work? Answer: none of them. So what makes an effective teacher is being able to select the right strategy at the right time. Also: never use sarcasm and never yell.

4. High Expectations – for Whom?

Todd points out that high expectations is not a variable between ineffective and effective teachers: all teachers have high expectations for students. However, great teachers have high expectations for themselves. “If the students are not focused, great teachers ask what they themselves can do differently” (34). Sometimes I find myself articulating this idea through asking whose actions are you ultimately responsible for, so therefore whose actions can you actually change?

5. Who is the Variable?

The empowering approach of accepting that you yourself is the one in control can raise teacher efficacy which will trickle down to the students. A focus on self, on responsibility, on how we respond and on what – at the end of the day – we can control will lead to success. I would challenge the binary that Todd suggest here however. I do feel there need to be a balance managed between reflecting on our own actions as teachers and attributing success of lack of successto the actions of students. We need to be cautious about attribution or causation when thinking about pedagogy.

6. Ten Days our of Ten

The challenge for all teachers is not to be positive and upbeat some of the time – it’s to create a positive atmosphere of mutual respect all of the time. Todd explains a number of aspects to this, from arguing that you don’t have to like all your students – you just have to act as if you like them, to the ins and outs of praise: effective praise must be authentic, specific, immediate, clean and private. And finally, you can never have too much nice.

7. The Teacher is the Filter

As teachers, we are responsible for the tone of the class. When we sneeze, the class catches a cold. Our focus becomes the students’ focus. Meetings are an opportunity to make “the teachers more excited about teaching tomorrow than they were today” and lessons a chance to make the “students to be more excited about learning tomorrow than they are today” (57). Filter out the negatives that don’t matter: they don’t do good to anyone. Instead share a positive attitude and watch that spirit become infectious.

Arts 21 – Relevant, Engaged, Contributing

Hosted by Radio NZ’s Bryan Crump, Arts21 at Te Papa considered the contributions that the arts make to our society and economy in the 21st century. It contained a keynote by Vice Chancellor Hon Steve Maharey, and a panel discussion with Professor Paul Spoonley (Pro Vice-Chancellor, Massey University College of Humanities and Social Sciences), Nicola Legat (founding publisher, Massey University Press), John Milford (Chief Executive, Wellington Chamber of Commerce) and Hannah August (writer, reviewer and commentator). The thoughts and reflections below are ideas that I gathered throughout the event – particularly from the excellent keynote.

  • We live in a globalised knowledge economy world where the arts have found it tough. STEM subjects receive natural bias and BAs are the butt of endless jokes. So the Arts have to explain itself. Explain it’s position in society. It’s reason for being. The arts are very good at doing this to the already converted, but wider conversation is necessary to re-frame education values.
  • “Knowledge earned through the Arts can set you free” – Steve Maharey. In our post truth era in politics (it’s wider than just politics) knowledge, attitude, competencies and skills from the arts – make us more likely to inquire and not just accept without thinking. Education in the arts essential to navigating a post truth world that is increasingly globalized. There is serious danger of moving towards a tribal world that does’t engage collectively (see the warning sounded in the recent film: Arrival). It is important to recognise the humanity in those of who you disagree with.
  • One of the key qualities that you get from an arts education is the ability to listen and to hear. This idea from Steve Maharey was expanded to thinking about learning to operate in environments with diverse views. There is a strong parallel here to the opinion economy that I’ve written previously about. Curiosity, communication, connections, appreciation of diverse views are other core qualities of an arts education. It prepares students to practice humility, tolerance and self criticism. Also to take on the challenge of how to take in thoughts of people that you disagree with and give their views respect.

If the world was a car, the Arts are the steering wheel – Callum Marra

The panel discussion followed with presenting wide ranging ideas. Some that stuck included:

  • Importance of exercising the responsibility of being citizens and not dismissing alternative views. A failure of engaging with questions and understanding that which we agree with and that which we disagree with is reflected by the issues faced in the USA and Britain. Something to note is the lack of wide media in NZ. There are very few places to go to gather diverse views.
  • We denigrate young people to easily. On the whole they are engaged, they are just communicating differently and navigating a very complex world. It is too easy to say they are apathetic, but the truth is far more complex.
  •  Steve Maharey spoke about what education needs to do: hang on to a curriculum that teaches students everything. Don’t succumb to the narrow vision of the curriculum that National Standards promotes and instead aspire for a broad range of knowledge. Languages being cut and dropped from the curriculum represents this narrowing and it’s something we have to fight against.
  • There is a balance between the specific skills for a job and the wider knowledge and life-skills required for success in 5 different industries and 17 different jobs (the new average apparently!).
  • Government had a lead a shift in discourse that sees value as economic value. We need to widen the discourse of value. Economic input doesn’t have to be economic output.

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uLearn16 – Assessing Deep Learning

uLearn16 – Assessing Deep Learning

By Margot McKeegan and Derek Wenmoth

Deep Learning is the key focus of an international collaboration led by Michael Fullan, involving clusters and networks of schools working together to build knowledge and practices that develop deep learning and foster whole system change. In this workshop participants will be introduced to the measures being used to evaluate the deep learning in this programme, and experience how these are applied in a practical way to form judgements about the learning that is occurring.

Notes below are a bit sporadic representing the sort of spitfire nature of the session where Derek threw out a lot of provocations. The notes written here are largely responses captured from my own thinking or something contributed from the group attending the workshop. Lots of things to continue unpacking.

Key questions:

  • What is deep learning?
  • How might we measure it?
  • What evidence would we use?

What is deep learning? Collaborative padlet. No one was talking about tests or national standards etc. Connecting this to the learning stories that we’ve experienced. What indicators do we use?

What does deep learning look like? What does it sound like, look like, feel like? When learning is deep it will feel hard and frustrating. The challenge of overcoming something because it is hard is what makes the learning worthwhile. It will involve emotion where the students and the teachers are excited – mutual respect. Zone of proximal development – it stretches people. Challenge for educators thinking about scaffolding the processes so that the learning is accessible. It sounds like students being about to articulate their learning, using their voice.

How is this measured? Consider the models of Bloom’s Taxonomy, SAMR, AsTTle, and SOLO Taxonomy. How do you know if someone is successful? Co-construct the success criteria with the students. Allows deeper learning of ourselves – how has the learning changed you as a learner? The idea of self-empowerment and leadership allowing the learner to become more self-aware and global citizens.

Connection to the movement in the media whereby news stories are about the soundbite or the headline. Do we still value the 6 o’clock news? Is news coverage now surface level, or deep.pedagogies-for-deep-learning

New pedagogies foster deep learning. It has to occur in four dimensions: pedagogical practices, leaning partnerships, learning environments, leveraging digital. Building precision. The focus of most of the workshops discussion was pedagogical practices.

This image on the right is taken from this blogpost which unpacks the new pedagogies for deep learning. The model below gives criteria and indicators that can be used (and were used) to assess a lesson plan:

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While it is easy to be critical of something in this context, the challenge is to apply the same critique to our own lesson plans.

If you think you’re already doing it. Ask for a second opinion

uLearn16 – Keynote #2 – John Couch

‘New Dimensions in Learning’

John leads the Education business at Apple – his more than 40 years as a computer scientist and his advocacy for the use of technology in education has revolutionised learning in the classroom. At Apple, our dedication to learning has always been a part of our DNA.

John captured the shift in education – defining it as a movement from education to learning. He reminded us of the ‘memorisation era’ and what has since happened to transform practice. School used to be a place where one could memorise their way through, but this is no longer the case. Education is what people do to you; learning is what you do for yourself.

So… we need to have a vision. A vision clairfies one’s mission. Vision is inspirational; mission is measurable. Why does your school exist. Can you articulate the why? Creativity allows us to think differently and provide environments where a student can be engaged. If the student is engaged, they’re going to learn.

How are we creating a learning environment around technology?  We look at technology as a tool. Digital natives see it as an environment. We used to call it cheating, now we call it collaboration.

All books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time – Steve Jobs

Think about Apple Education and their leading example:

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Knowledge is…something that emerges from the students’ own curiosity-fueled exploration. – Joshua Davis

wp-1475722668894.jpgPersonalised learning environment works just as well inside and outside the classroom walls. If content is free, whats your value? How do we reframe knowledge and make it purposeful and relevant? The Zone of Proximal Development suggests we need to develop collaboration. The great the knowledge and greater the zone.

So how to reframe education? One framework is Challenge Based Learning (CBL). It has a familiar feel to it (and relates a lot I guess to the design process and PBL) but sets out a strong structure to position knowledge in a process where learning is the driver:

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John critiqued the tendancy to teach to the middle. He demonstrated this with a couple of graphs that hit close to home. No student is average; any institution that is based on average is doom to fail. Todd Rose talks about this more in his TED talk:

Another way of visualising this is through the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who argues there is a space for optimal learning when challenge and skills are balanced. This argues once again for a personalised learning approach:

Fundamental flaw of the education system is that we still can’t meet all the individual learning needs. But John Couch’s ABC’s could help!

  • Access
  • Build
  • Code

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The keynote wasn’t full of anything that was remarkably new or controversial to my thinking and philosophy. However, what it gave me was ammunition. It contain language and examples that will be powerful to use in my journey. The overall message seemed to be that we need to move beyond education and unleash learning. And I am very excited about this.

Mindset Next Steps

The previous mindset day I spent at Carol Dweck and Susan Mackie is captured in this previous post; however, the purpose of this post is to emphasis the follow up and next steps arising from this day.

Firstly, presenting this material in Dean’s Assembly. The science of character video that preempted the day provides a fantastic core for this. It offers an accessible way into the argument that we can change and grow, asking “who do you want to be?”

This can work alongside an introduction to the growth mindset and a general discussion about failure. The Michael Jordan clip provices a way in for this:

The next area of follow up focus is my language in the classroom. This includes:

  • Using “what are you struggling with?” as a approach to conversation rather than “how are you going?” or equivalent. I wonder whether this is quite a negative framework to apply – however, in a space where failure is de-stigmatised this type of approach is not focused on negativity, it is focused on growth.
  • Which leads to the familiar emphasis of Carol Dweck on praising the process. I’ve written on this before in regards to active learning, where there is a challenge around focusing on the process instead of the content or the outcome.
  • And another familiar Dweck emphasis: using “yet”. By using “yet” or “not yet” in feedback, the focus is on growth and process. Not achieved is not a finale, but not achieved yet shifts the focus to something that is ongoing, a process by which the students can grow and develop from. This supports embedding the idea with the student that they can learn and they can improve.

And finally, I need to make errors. Modelling the error correction process is an important part of shifting to a growth culture. Letting students see this happen and being open to conversations around it help to emphasis a growth environment.

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Active learning Showcase Reflection

The Active Learning Showcase was a fabulous occasion, truly putting learners at the centre. It saw about 100 students in the hall to present and showcase their learning in conversations with mainly adults who were circulating around.

The open invitation to work the room and talk with students offered an opportunity to deeply reflect on how to approach learning conversations with students. I found that students with interesting content would draw content focused questions from me, and it would take significant effort to sometimes steer this conversation into the process. There was so much value in this for the students involved as the conversations were so empowering and the growth across the two hours was visible in many instances.

In terms of Professional Learning, I feel that one of the biggest gains of the showcase was through the decision to make it compulsory for all staff to attend. This forced staff to engage with the underlying learning purpose of active learning and any cynicism was immediately challenged by the voices of the students. It was visible during the two hours that teachers were active in talking to akonga. This must have been a challenge for many who enjoy the safety of a desk as a barrier. But the throw them in the deep end approach was a valuable experience for at the least the opportunity to circulate among learners in an innovative learning environment.

There is deeper reflection to come about the process as a whole. It is a complex journey to unpack. But it’s great to record this positive buzz!