Veni, VIDEO, Vici

Ok, I admit it … the title is not that “punny” but it is a nod to my great passion for Ancient History. I have found myself recently making far greater use of video creation; especially as a way to both engage and assess students. I’m assuming that your visit to this blog means that you accept the significance of “creation over consumption.” Modern students are visual learners and they are also great consumers of content. However, in my experience, nothing offers greater motivation than the opportunity to create content for a wide audience outside of the classroom. For me, this imperative is best encapsulated in the following extract from my 2015 HTAWA Keynote but most especially in the Ruston Hurley quote

“… I believe that authentic learning simply must be paired with authentic audience. Constricted by syllabus requirements, most typically at senior level, too many teachers continue to tell students to submit hard copies of assessment items. By contrast, Alan November tells us that we need to “stop saying hand it in and start saying publish it instead.” … Yes, this publishing will often have to be in addition to meeting the more mundane requirements, but it allows students to showcase their work in the real world. It will, with apologies to Red Bull, give their work wings. Ruston Hurley tells us If students are sharing their work with the world, they want it to be good. If they’re just sharing it with you, they want it to be good enough.”

Image sourced from:http://static.highexistence.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/create.jpg

Image sourced from:http://static.highexistence.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/create.jpg

I recently took teaching colleagues from my school through a professional learning session which focused upon some of the lesser known features of YouTube. The prolific video sharing site continues to build staggering numbers for viewing but very few teachers know of the ability to create videos within YouTube. Not only that but you can easily convert any PowerPoint into a film, upload it to YouTube and then add commentary or music. When you become a little more proficient you can annotate your videos to include student questions or even hyperlink to other videos and create a “choose your own adventure.” My favourite feature however, is the fact that you can create several channels using just the one email address. I now have four channels; my own “Connected Teacher” channel, one for sharing resources with staff and two others for subject groups.

The last task for my Year 11 Ancient History students this year was to create a two minute video about an aspect of daily life in Egypt. These have been uploaded to our special channel, “Pharaoh’s Film Festival.” This is a public channel; so, feel free to visit, use the videos, subscribe, use it as a model for your own classroom project or, better yet, leave some comments for the students. The full playlist of student videos can be found here!

I’ve embedded the Student Playlist below.

Time to Subscribe!

Time to Subscribe!

Given that I’ve been waxing lyrical about video creation I should at least leave you with some resources. My recent article for Australian Teacher Magazine entitled “Creation Over Consumption” (Go figure!) can currently be found online at

http://au.educationhq.com/news/37183/technology-helpdesk-creation-over-consumption/

My school based session on YouTube was shared as Issue 12, “YouTube and You” as part of my Bite Sized Learning series. The whole series (so far) can be found on my other site at www.theconnectedteacher.com.au

#IMMOOC 4. Brewing The Magic Potion

Image Sourced From: www.quirkbooks.com

Image Sourced From: www.quirkbooks.com

For nearly five years now I’ve been responsible for creating and delivering professional development sessions for colleagues. Of course, I’ve also attended a large number of such “learning opportunities” which have varied from the woeful to the inspirational. There are some great presenters out there but often it’s more performance than substance.

I know the “fire hose method” doesn’t work … you know those one-off occasions where you blast the 75 people in the room with frantic content delivery in the hope that at least someone is knocked off their feet. Earlier this year I was asked by Australian Teacher Magazine to write a Help Desk article on running great technology PD sessions.  I’m utterly convinced that “fixing the current PD model” is akin to brewing a magic potion.

“Am I about to give you the ultimate secret to success? No, if I had that, I would be bottling and selling it.” (You can find the full article in Volume 14, Issue 7, July 2016)

I did identify five key considerations for developing worthwhile PD … terminology, scheduling, content, engagement and alternatives. Part III of The Innovator’s Mindset identifies the need to provide teachers with personalised, targeted and engaging professional learning. This learning has to be (… and I love this idea, thanks George) about moving each individual from ” … their Point A to their Point B.” This, I’m convinced, has been the missing ingredient in my magic potion. I also believe that I am my own worse enemy and I admitted this in the ATM article.

“There is no value in you rushing on to the next “cool tool” when participants are still creating an account for the previous one. In my passion for technology and sharing what I have learned, I too often forget that others won’t necessarily keep up with me.”

And for now … time to get back to the cauldron! One day I’m going to be a very rich man.

PS: And remember … If you haven’t yet seen my #IMMOOC meme

1c2o8s

#IMMOOC 3. What If …

This will be a brief, ultra concise, exact blog post. (Probably didn’t need to say that!) Despite being on a well deserved term break, the weather has largely been vile and so I’ve been doing my best to keep up with the latest from George et. al. I particularly enjoyed Episode 3 featuring the hyped-up-hard-to-ignore Kaleb Rashad. My educational bucket list certainly includes a visit to a Hi-Tech High campus (hint, hint Kaleb.)

Image Sourced From: http://www.neonmfg.com/dream-big/

Image Sourced From: http://www.neonmfg.com/dream-big/

I have long proclaimed the importance of mindset before skill set … and yet there are those who continue to “teach as they were taught” (in the 1970s no less) The homework for this week was to dive into George Couros’ What If “process” which aims to

“… dream big and to figure out what is important for you and your educational organisation as you move forward.” (The Innovator’s Mindset, p. 117)

My response takes the form of a Haiku Deck; it’s always great to visit an old favourite. Why not try a little What If – ing of your own. Or, leave a comment on my attempt. (I always respond)


What Ifs – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

#IMMOOC 2. It’s Time to Starbucks Your School

When I was a teenager (just after the last Ice Age) I attended a well established all boys college in Hobart, Tasmania. I’ll pause briefly whilst some of you look Hobart up on Google Earth. That school has now entered its second century and it remains little changed in appearance or, I suspect, pedagogy. By contrast, the school where I’m currently employed is about to embark on a million dollar refurbishment of its oldest classrooms. As the eLearning Manager I’ve been involved in the design process. Come 2017 I will have the opportunity to teach in tech-ed up, glass enclosed, re-configurable learning spaces. Yes, we will have 85 inch interactive panels on the walls, funky “learniture” and numerous writable surfaces. Yes, some of you are envious. Will it all lead to innovation and improved student learning? Unfortunately, there are no guarantees.

As George Couros rightly points out in Part One of The Innovator’s Mindset, innovation is certainly not specifically about technology or stuff in general. I’ve long accepted that the most significant tool in any teacher’s kitbag is in fact their mindset. If my colleagues go into those new learning spaces next year with an old, fixed mindset then the school might as well have just saved the money. Indeed, some of you might still be wondering about the cost effectiveness of a million dollar refurbishment. George, as en pointe as ever, notes that Starbucks embraced the need to change and survived whilst Blockbuster didn’t and, well … went bust. We do live in an era of education where “innovate or die” has to be our unshakeable motto.

Image Sourced from www.brandextenders.com

Image Sourced from www.brandextenders.com

It would seem that the Starbucks “lesson” is gaining wider acceptance as an analogy for the current situation in education.  I recently read two excellent online posts which I’ve hyperlinked immediately below.

http://www.focus2achieve.com/blog/2016/6/2/starbucks-my-classroom-project-the-master-plan (by Oskar Cymerman @focus2achieve)

https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-10-01-why-the-21st-century-classroom-may-remind-you-of-starbucks (by edsurge.com columnist Kayla Delzer)

I enjoy a good coffee, like all teachers it runs through my veins, but I’m also keen to lead a move to Starbucks My School. For me, Part One of The Innovators Mindset has one resounding key word … empathy. That particular trait is all about building relationships, about “knowing who you serve.” When a customer walks into a Starbucks, the counter assistant never says “I don’t care what you want to order, you’re being given a half-double-decaffeinated-half-caff.” (Nods to Steve Martin in LA Story.) So, finally I arrive at this week’s prompt … what sort of school would I build? I would build the school that my customers demand.

Image "borrowed" from www.pinterest.com

Image “borrowed” from www.pinterest.com

PS: A song for this week … “You Can Foam Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Macchiato

#IMMOOC 1. Est ad docendum , ad novationem

I’m guessing many of you may have become lost somewhere in the midst of my title. So, I best explain. The hashtag will be used for George Couros’ MOOC based on his exceptional text The Innovator’s Mindset. (Surely there’s nothing wrong with massaging the ego of the man who will be handing out prizes!) As for the Latin; I studied it at school and still use it in my daytime job as a teacher of Ancient Studies. (At night I’m a ninja; really!)

How Many Selfies Would Narcissus Take? Sourced from Pinterest; originally pinned by www.debbiecharles.com

How Many Selfies Would Narcissus Take?
Sourced from Pinterest; originally pinned by www.debbiecharles.com

Est ad docendum, ad novationem (if you believe Google Translate) means To teach is to innovate. I do know that the Latin word innovare had a distinctly different meaning; to renew, alter or make new again. We all think of innovation as something wholly new but surely in education the renewal idea is just as significant. When I started teaching in 1981 (yep, that long ago) innovation took the astonishing form of Post It Notes and the Commodore 64 computer … Sweet! Thirty years later the very first iPad was released and a teaching career that was close to ending was renewed. In the years since I’ve learned how and why to innovate. Yes, I’m often still teaching about Caesar, Alexander or the pyramids (nothing new there) but in new ways … the learning experiences I design aim to realise the “Mantra of the Innovative Educator.”

So, I must have acquired a whole lot of new skills. Yes, I’m now a Digital Learning Leader and I can “wield a mean iPad” but the true change has been in my mindset. As George says early in his text, it’s all about “ … a way of thinking that creates something new and better.” (p. 19) The mindset of the teacher is the most significant tool in any classroom. #IMMOOC starts this coming weekend so it’s not too late for you to register at immooc.org

Checking For A Pulse

“Let’s be honest now and admit it – we all feel lazy sometimes when we have to write a blog …” (from professional blogger Tom Jager)

This will only be my fourth blog post of the 2016 school year; I haven’t just been lazy but more so comatose. “Write a blog post” was added to my To Do List back in June, so you can see why I am regularly checking for a pulse. That’s something I haven’t done since my son was a teenager. It’s certainly not that I have nothing to say, I always have a lot to say. So, what has been the problem?

This printable To Do List (https://invincibleinc.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/printable_todo_list/) is clearly missing a NEVER column.

This printable To Do List (https://invincibleinc.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/printable_todo_list/) is clearly missing a NEVER column.

I think I finally have an answer. The mere fact that so many schools have an eLearning Manager (I only use this because “Full Time Multi-Tasking Tech Ninja” is not an actual job title. Note to self, must get that on a T-Shirt) is an admission of failure. If the much hyped Digital Education Revolution had succeeded, I should be back teaching History full time. More on that later. The reality is that I’ve become an actual “Jack of all (Tech) Trades” and consequently master of none. I frequently research tools for colleagues, trial them, pass on the key information and … repeat! I regularly visit classrooms to troubleshoot tech problems. My role has led to me having a little bit of knowledge about 100s of tools but few that I have mastered.

Given the necessary authority (… All Hail Imperator Simonus,) I would be insistent upon all teachers having the same digital toolbox. This would comprise six or eight tools that every teacher masters and uses in their classroom. We are forever reading about standardised tests and general capabilities for students. Surely this standardisation should also extend to the digital capabilities of teachers. But I already know the type of objections I would hear, “I’m a Maths teacher, why do I need to know how to screencast?” I know because I actually received this comment.

This term I have returned to teaching an Ancient Studies class and I’m far from comatose there; it looks more like caffeine fuelled hyperactivity. I suspect it is in part about using technology to increase the engagement of students with whom I’ve built a personal relationship. My first moves into technology came out of a passion to improve my teaching … if only you could teach passion to others! Still, like all good emperors, I will continue to build my empire,  protect the citizens and repel the barbarians at the gate. But, for now, I’m off to cross this post of my list. Another post soon … maybe!

I know it's Vespasian ... But I can see the resemblance.

I know it’s Vespasian … But I can see the resemblance.

Bite-Sized Professional Learning

As some of you would already know, I made a “tree change” last year and headed to the Barossa Valley. As the new eLearning Manager in my school, one of my first initiatives was to set up a fortnightly “newsletter” in the form of a Weebly created site. Each issue contained five items; no more and no less. There was, what I believed to be, an appropriate mix of topics; the latest theory or trend, new apps, video tutorials and a regular “How To…” column. This was an attempt to give teachers the opportunity for some regular professional learning “at leisure.” All the feedback was positive and I saw no reason not to continue in 2016.

For Weebly Pro Users there is the opportunity to access detailed analytics of your website traffic. In the first term this year I noticed that the readership of the newsletter had fallen away dramatically; to as little as five percent of the teaching staff. I wasn’t particularly miffed but did want to know the reasons for the drop-off. I brought up the matter at a committee meeting and I was certainly bemused by the three reasons I kept hearing in various forms …

  1. “People are tech-weary, we’re sick of hearing about it all the time.”
  2. “Your newsletter took too long to read; sometimes it was 15 or 20 minutes.”
  3. “I would have been more likely to read it as a print out.” (Seriously, a printed eLearning Newsletter!)

To me they each seemed like a version of that same old excuse which has long made me bypass miffed and go straight to “bl**** angry.” It surely can’t be acceptable any longer to say “I haven’t got time for this.”

IMG_2055

Pleasingly, it didn’t take me long to come up with an alternative; a Tip of the Week in poster form, created in the excellent Piktochart. (Hell, people can even print it if they want to!) I really enjoy the design process and so I’m happy to do this … in that sense at least. But seriously, how effective can it be to deliver bite-sized professional learning!

*If you would like to use or just check out my first two tips, just use the links below:

https://magic.piktochart.com/output/13743968-untitled-poster

https://magic.piktochart.com/output/14051589-week-2

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 1.28.37 PM

Finally, A New Post

Finally, I’ve written a new post, creatively titled “Finally, A New Post.” I won’t trot out my usual excuses for not writing … I’ve got new excuses! I have been exceedingly busy on a whole range of projects which have finally come together. What are they? I’m glad you asked.

I devoted a good deal of time to reading the extraordinary text “Open: How We’ll Work, Live and Learn In The Future” by David Price, OBE. Of the myriad educational texts I’ve read over the last five years, none has influenced me as much as this one. Price gives a wonderful account of how a health scare led to a revelation which led eventually to Open. Within the learning aspect he provides telling insights into why schools need to become both O.P.E.N. and S.O.F.T. For more detail you can read my review of Open on Fractus Learning. This link will take you there: http://www.fractuslearning.com/2016/04/20/social-learning-heutagogues-coming/

Yes, you must “Man The Walls: The Heutagogues Are Coming.” Go on, you have to read the review now just to find out what the hell that title means. Price’s ideas will also take centre stage as a key element of my Education Nation session on June 7. If you haven’t registered for this great new Sydney conference then you absolutely should. Apparently, I’m going to be epic. Or I just have one of the biggest heads.

Yes, I'm officially EPIC!

Yes, I’m officially EPIC!

But that’s not all. I’ve also officially become a “brand” with a small business; a small business cleverly called The Connected Teacher. What do we offer? Small group Professional Learning paired with great food and wine at Lambert Estate in the beautiful Barossa Valley. You can read about my fledgling enterprise in the PD section of the latest Australian Teacher Magazine. (I’ll save you some time by pointing out that it’s on page 46.) Alternatively, you might want to read all about it on the new website www.theconnectedteacher.com.au

Why not spend a day or even a long weekend in the Barossa. Of course, you might also suggest it as a great idea for your colleagues. I can promise it will be unique professional learning, quite unlike anything already in the market and at a low, all inclusive price. Go on, register now.

Lambert Estate: Now, That's a PD Venue

Lambert Estate For Great PD

 

Consulting The Oracle

So, after a two month hiatus (love that word) it’s time to blog again. Hopefully, this will put paid to the rumours that I celebrated Christmas by systematically visiting all 127 Cellar Doors in the Barossa Valley. Such a lie; I’m only just up to the letter P.

Later this year I will be speaking at the Education Nation conference in Sydney … here’s the proof.Education Nation

The title of my Day One presentation is “Have We Just Made Everything Worse? Technology in Our Schools.” Although the event itself is still three months away, I’m sure the organisers will be glad to hear that my planning is well under way. Indeed, one aspect of that planning is to put into words in this post a half formed idea that I had recently. There is a genuine risk that some of you will immediately label me as the poster boy of the lunatic fringe … but here goes. I would greatly appreciate any and all feedback.

At the start of the school year this past January, our Faculty Head of Religious Education (the programme is now called LIFE) was addressing the full teaching staff about changes to the subject including the new soubriquet (Ooh, I like that even more than hiatus!) He began with this quotation:

“One might define spirituality as the search for connectedness and meaning …”

I’m certain that regular readers here know how much I write about and indeed value connectedness. We hear frequently about Internet and device addiction; in fact, a major Adelaide radio station recently ran what they termed a “digital detox” for parents and their “addict” children. And then, the proverbial penny dropped. Is the connection that so many of us now feel to our mobile devices really a form of spirituality? So much of what we do online is about “… searching for connectedness (think Facebook or any other social networking site) and meaning (think Google or indeed any web browser.) In an era where organised religion is frequently shunned by young people, have they turned to the digital realm to find meaning and eternal life? Already, a significant number of companies are selling services which can continue your digital presence long after your death. For a sample of these you could visit www.thedigitalbeyond.com

Image Source www.media.npr.org

Image Source: www.media.npr.org

Walking away from that January meeting, I was chatting with another colleague about my idea. His reply was immediate … “You could be right, every time I go on Google I feel like I’m consulting the oracle.” Certainly it bears thinking about … what happens to my digital music library when I die? What about my photos? Will I still be connecting via this blog with teachers who aren’t even born yet? Will I be tweeting from beyond the grave using a service such as DeadSocial or LivesOn? (Their motto: When your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting.) For your sake, I hope not.

Simon The (Not Yet) Great

(#Bloggermore 26/26 … Well, really 16/26)

“You’re flight time through to Hobart is 54 minutes.”

So, that’s precisely how long I had to cobble together one final blog post for 2015. Of course, I really should write several 50 word posts in a desperate last-ditch attempt to meet my own blogging aim for this year. But I won’t, and next year there will be no silly, self-imposed challenges! I have been, like everyone involved in education, exceedingly busy but I’ve also had to factor in an interstate move, home renovations, a new school, a slightly demonic new puppy, sick relatives, very cold mornings, worsening arthritis, a rabid crow in our kitchen, dust storms and bushfires. However, you can rest easy; this post is not to warn you of the impending apocalypse … That’s just my life.

Of course, I’ve also had some “wins” along the way. This year I’ve found myself increasingly sought after as a writer for Australian Teacher Magazine, Fractus Learning and others. It’s simply brilliant to receive Christmas greetings like this one:

ATM Greeting

I’ve also compiled a fortnightly eNewsletter focusing on all things educational technology for my new colleagues, conducted professional learning sessions and even made a well received appearance as “Bad Santa” at the staff Christmas lunch. In many respects the real highlight was delivering my very first keynote address at the annual HTAWA State Conference in Perth. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I like nothing more than the sound of my own voice! Which brings me to my hopes for 2016 and my purpose in writing here. Put simply, I want to become a regular conference keynote speaker. I want to be “that guy” who educators want to listen to. I’ve been told many times that I am a humorous and engaging presenter but I’m simply not part of the “pro tour.” Unfortunately, too many conferences are still headlined by the same tired old people delivering the same tired old content in the same tired old manner. A few years back I recall reading an insightful tweet about a disappointing keynote:

“Blah, blah, blah … Sign my cheque. Blah, blah, blah … Take me back to my five star hotel.”

Now, I’ve got the old and tired bit covered but how do I get a headline gig? I’m not Sir Ken Robinson so I can’t expect the mega bucks but I do have over three decades of genuine classroom experience and my own variety of home spun wisdom. The voice of education needs to be genuine, not a rehearsed, overpriced routine.

I am most certainly excited about the enormous possibilities of the Education Nation conference which will take place in Sydney during June next year. (You can find all the details at www.educationnation.com.au) I am delighted to be part of the Advisory Team that will help shape this conference “by teachers, for teachers.”

Check out the details!

Check out the details!

There’s also a good chance that I’ll take the stage at some time during the two days; after all, I am dropping regular hints. But, that’s not enough; I want more opportunities to put myself out there, to help shape education in Australia and worldwide. Yes, even worldwide. If you’re a megalomaniac you might as well go the whole way; I only have a few years left to match the empire building of my hero Alexander! So, if you’re organising some teacher training sessions or a conference; use the contact form on this site to bring me onboard. I don’t have a set “rate” but I know it will be reasonable. I don’t even expect a 5 star hotel, I’m prepared to slum it in a 4 star. Oh hell, let’s just admit it; if all else fails I’ll also consider offers to resurrect Santa.