Coding: The Way of the Future or a Blast from the Past?
As 2015 draws to a close (and Course 4 does as well), I’m drawn to the trends in tech integration moving simultaneously toward and away from the future.
Last year they only had ‘blockly’ options for students to explore coding, and it’s great that they are allowing students a chance to see under the ‘hood’ of the blockly pieces what the actual code looks like.
Programming is changing briskly.Coding in the cloud is one trend likely to carry on, spreading collaborators across continents. So also is the explosion of new languages, like Facebook’s Hack scripting language or Apple’s Swift, alongside classical tongues like C and Java. We’re likely to learn to code younger, and differently. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) child-friendly programming language Scratch has 6.2 million registered users.The Internet of Things, driverless cars, and drones will all yield more programmable platforms – but will coding for your cappuccino maker drastically change programming? And what will the coding workplace be like, when today’s Raspberry rugrats have grown into tomorrow’s programming prodigies?
Currently, I run a Digital Design Club for Grades 3-5 and already I am looking at multiple platforms for students to explore design and coding. Many of them are already familiar with Hopscotch and Scratch, but more so for the interactive games they can play. There still seems to be some gaps between the principles of coding, and the animations/games created through coding apps and platforms.
One way I’ve tried to help students grasp what coding/programming truly means is through ‘unplugged’ coding: using non-tech tools to teach a tech-based concept. Last year I started Hour of Code club for grades 1-3 and started the club with a variation of a lesson from Computer Science Unplugged. The first activity I modified was ‘Image Representation’ or what I called ‘Pixel Coding’. I tuned them in using Pixar animated characters and talking about the word Pixel. Many of them were familiar with the term from Minecraft so were immediately engaged. Then students had the opportunity to practice ‘coding’ an image. Below is a screenshot from the lesson I did with students:
Students were most engaged in this activity because it was a concrete way to understand how each image on a screen is constructed.
Although we are moving towards more globally connected classrooms, I find it interesting that we are reverting to ‘old school’ skills such as the basics of computer programming. Now that so many programs are realistic, there is something exciting about go back to primitive basics and understanding how it all works. It makes me realise how progressive everything is and how important it is to maintain connections to where we (and technology) evolved from.
SO to answer the question: Will education as we know it change because of technology? Education is always and has always been evolving…the same way our world has been and is evolving. As this clever Edudemic post illustrates, education has been evolving since education first existed:
Classrooms have come a long way. There’s been an exponential growth in educational technology advancement over the past few years. From overhead projectors to iPads, it’s important to understand not only what’s coming next but also where it all started. (Edudemic)
It frightens me that there are movements against technology, in such schools as the London Acorn Schools :
According to school rules, children are not allowed television at all before the age of 12, after that they are allowed documentaries that have previously vetted by parents. They cannot watch films until they are 14; the internet is banned completely for everyone under 16 – at home and and at school – and computers are only to be used as part of the school curriculum for over-14s. (Guardian)
In my opinion, this seems like an extreme response to a reality that is only going to be that much more shocking when children finally do have access to films, TV and the internet. Rather than teaching students strategies for coping with digital spaces and showcasing the positive aspects of a connected classroom, they are turning media and technology into ‘forbidden fruit’. Furthermore, there is an even greater need for young adults to be digitally literate, with strong skills in multi-literacies such as information literacy, tech literacy, and media literacy.
If we want education to prepare students for a technologically rich world, we need to embrace what currently exists in our reality. We need to ensure students have a chance to practice citizenship in digital spaces and also apply time-management strategies in their personal and school lives.
These past few weeks I had the privilege of collaborating with Claire Wachowiak. We both felt that our schools would benefit from revamped Responsible Use Agreements and embarked on a collaborative journey to improve and redefine this form for the 21st Century School. In my previous blog posts I’ve revisited the idea that something needs to change in the curriculum and/or the school’s technological vision to ensure teachers are providing space for students to understand and practice both Connectivism and Digital Citizenship. I’ve also explored the importance of properly defining ‘screen time’ so we can avoid Device Blaming & App Shamingand get on with using technology as a tool, not a replacement for the teacher. However, rather than wait for this much needed change to begin, we decided to see how we could embed some of these key networked and digital literacy outcomes (based on ISTE standards) within our revised Responsible Use Agreement.
Both of our schools have developed fairly standard Responsible Use Agreements, which address expected behaviours regarding the device and its content. However, I felt they failed to really define other important elements of the whole digital citizen. To go back to an important point in Jeff Utecht’sReach:the line between Digital and Networked Literacies is a fine one. If we are to properly prepare students for the future, we need to ensure that students, parents and teachers are aware of Networked Literacies and the responsibility of becoming network literate as a digital citizen. As Jeff Utecht puts it: Networked Literacy is about understanding connections. In order to understand connections, we need to ensure EdTech is being used to facilitate these connections in the first place.
Extension.org is an excelent place to begin understanding more about Network Literacy.
The example below of an existing Responsible Use Agreement demonstrates the breadth of ‘responsibility’. It really focuses solely on information, images and personal details, but completely ignores the positive expectations for using technology for connectivism.
Futhermore, it’s easy for parents and students to sign and return, but they still may not be clear on the purposeof EdTech devices in schools and at home. Many parents simply tick the box that they will monitor their students’ use of devices at home, yet several incidents emerged this year that proved they had not followed these guidelines. Often, it is then left to the schools to educate and resolve issues that occur using school devices or platforms, outside school hours.
I understand this school’s choice to cover a wide breadth of expected User behaviours online and using the device. However, it focuses solely on the respect and property side of EdTech use, rather than encompassing all aspects of networked and digital literacy. Furthermore, we felt only including the parents and students in this agreement demonstrated an incomplete representation of all stakeholders in the child’s relationship with EdTech. Therefore, we also added a third and fourth stakeholder in the Responsible Use Agreement: The Teachers and Administrators.
Many teachers presume since the device is in the classroom, it will lend itself to autonomously teaching the children, and thus they will (through osmosis) become digital citizens. This is not the purpose of having iPads in the classroom…they are meant to be used as a tool, not as a teacher. If we expect the students to be using the devices responsibly, the teachers and admin need to be accountable for how the devices are being used, and ensuring they are being used as a tool to create and/or to practice specific networked or digital literacies. Common Sense Media provides a plethora of activities, iBooks, videos etc to engage students in these conversations as well as practice digital citizenship. Meanwhile, the ISTE standards provide excellent guidelines and benchmarks for students, teachers, admin and coaches to to practice, model and advocate for digital citizenship throughout the school community. It is also up to admin to be aware of the purpose of devices so they can remain consistent when issues arise.
We believe if all stakeholders sign the same document, while also referring to the ISTE standards, then a common language and common vision for EdTech use can be fostered within a school.
In an age where people are respected for creating a positive and perhaps influential and inspirational digital footprint, why are so many individuals still clinging to online anonymity…or worse, abusing anonymity to gain power?
We all wear a mask when we’re online, but it’s up to us how we carve the features. What parts of ourselves or what human characteristics do we want to portray?
I’m still amazed at the amount of feedback and free speech platforms that enable individuals to anonymously berate and slander individuals and institutions. Many students and teachers are familiar with the Rate My Teacher platform, andin the international circuit there is a similar platform called the International School Reviews. For many, this platform serves as a space for sharing experiences of living and working abroad. While teachers searching this platform try to look for trends, the feedback can range from reasonable complaints to completely absurd, over-dramatised and vengeful perspectives. Unfortunately many teachers rely on platforms like this to gain information about a school before they accept a job offer. While the reviews are often harsh, they are also anonymous, making it difficult to really determine the extent of the teacher’s experience. General anonymous platforms like this also devalue any accurate feedback about a school, because educators are forced to weigh each review with caution.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end with online platforms. As we are continuously required to divulge more of our personal information online, the counter move appears to be apps that foster anonymity. While these apps may aim to protect individuals’ rights to free speech and privacy, they ultimately encourage and promote internet trollersand cyberbullies.
This Blog Postexplores in more depth the vulgarity and misuse of the app at a US college campus.
My question is, why do so many individuals continue to hide behind anonymous apps that were not initially designed to be misused in this way? Last month Diana Graber of the Huffington Post investigated the issue further and spoke directly to the creators of the Yik Yak app. She wrote:
“We were naïve,” Buffington told me. “We designed the app primarily for college students. Using the app the way we intended it to be used requires a certain amount of maturity and responsibility, we were idealistic about who possessed that.”
The co-creators did their best to remedy the situation by placing age limits and blocks on the app in certain geographical regions and school districts, but the damage initially done had already occurred. Graber succinctly summarises ways to prevent future incidents like this from happening:
What Parents and Educators Can Do To Monitor Social Apps:
1) Prevent your under-17-year-old from downloading apps rated 17+. If they have an iOS device: Go to “Settings,” select “General” and tap “Enable Restrictions.” You can set restrictions for “Installing Apps” and “In-App Purchases” here (the slider should read off.) 2) Since kids are really good at getting around #1 (above), a better solution is to talk to your kids, set rules, and then get familiar or cyber-wise about what they’re up to online so you can see if your rules are being followed. If you need a little help with this (especially with younger kids) you might consider installing software, like SpectorSoft, that records and replays all of your child’s Internet activity and provides a detailed report. 3) Even better than #1 or #2 is to advocate for digital literacy or “cyber civics” lessons to be taught at your school. Understanding how (and why) to be safe and respectful online is an indispensable skill in our networked world. Besides, the best Internet block or filter in the world is the one kids carry around between their ears. Let’s teach them how to use it!
Despite the controversy, anonymous apps unfortunately seem to be on the rise. Tech Crunch recently described the newest app Cloaq (released just 2 weeks ago):
The trend toward anonymous social applications may be on the downswing for some, but others believe there’s still a place for online discussions where users don’t have to reveal their real identity. Case in point: Cloaq, the anonymous app where users never had to provide an identifying piece of information, like a phone number or email, is today launching out of beta with a new twist. Instead of only socializing around user-generated content, the startup is now allowing users to have anonymous discussions about news articles as well.
I find this deeply concerning as we are removing all accountability from users of these apps. Providing a mask, or cloak, to hide behind will greatly impact the way humans interact and socialise online. Will anonymous trolling one day overshadow the power and inspiration provided through connectivism and networking communities?
Cookie Blocking Prevents Many Commercial Trackers, But Leaves Big Openings
Tor and Encrypted Browsing Both Conceal and Highlight Users
Beyond the Mask of Encryption: Behavioral Giveaways
The final point discusses how unaware we are of our online behavioural giveaways:
While Tor and other privacy-focused technologies may protect you from revealing most of your personal details as you surf the web, how you behave online may ultimately expose your true identity. If you think of the web as a public meeting place, then privacy technologies are like a mask or disguise – people won’t be able to recognize your identity on sight. But other details, such as the way you walk or talk, may be enough to tip off a careful observer.
This final point brings me hope that one day we may greatly reduce, or even erradicate abuse of power on the internet. I wonder how much longer anonymous individuals will have the freedom to troll and bully others online. When will technology and governing policies catch up and make it impossible to speak behind the mask?
Our Profiles, Ourselves
We are moving towards an age where our online presence marks a major aspect of ourselves. Potential employers are relying on our online profiles more than ever to get a complete picture of who we are, and who they are hiring. Does it reflect poorly or negatively on us if we lack an online presence? Five years ago, I don’t think it would have been an issue. But now, I would question why a teacher, administrator or school has so little shared online. It either reflects they may have something to hide or nothing of value to share with the global community.
Platforms such as WordPress, Blogger, Squarespaceand eBooks like Twitter: A Cultural Guidebook make it so easy for any individual or organisation to build a online profile for themselves. If we are to truly consider the recommendations in Graber’s Huffington post article, we have a responsibility to model a positive online presence and an individual who has none may not be the best candidate for a job in 21st Century Education.
Last week I embarked on a new journey with 4 classroom teachers at my school. We decided to participate in a Global Collaborative eBook Project called If You Learned Here.Based on the book If You Lived Here, students and teachers will connect over several weeks and share what learning looks like in our schools. The end goal is to create an eBook representing learning across the globe.
It’s my first time participating in a global project like this, and also my first time participating in something without having a class of my own! As edTech coach I am helping to coordinate the 4 participating teachers (who are spread across two campuses), and we managed to get our first school video together to post on our cohort’sflipgrid.
Screenshot from our cohort’s Flipgrid board
Here is our video:
I first found out about the project through Twitter when Kim Cofino posted a tweet advertising this opportunity. Just another perfect example of how Twitter and Blogginginspire each other!
It immediately peaked my interest as I’m already a huge fan of the Book Creator app, and I tend to jump at any opportunity to encourage teachers & students at my school to engage with tech in unique and meaningful ways. It is also an opportunity for students to connect with students from around the globe, while providing a purpose for teachers to expand their PLNs while learning the concept of a global collaborative project. What I also love about this project is it promotes the use of tech at the top phase of higher-order thinking skills: creation. Each week participating students have the opportunity to create something and contribute to global learning.
Looking at this project through the lens of SAMR, I definitely see it as operating in the Redefinition phase as the collaborative aspect of this project could not exist without the use of technology. Furthermore, the end goal involves a multi-media eBook drawing on information shared across various platforms, further redefining a new task.
I’m also pleased that it encourages participants to try 2 new platforms: Flipgridand Padlet, both which easily enable collaboration between schools. I see potential for both of these platforms to be used in future projects, whether connecting student blogs or collaborating on UOIs. It will be interesting to survey teachers at the end of this project and see what they think about using these tools again.
After completing week 0 and week 1 of the project, I’ll admit that being in a coordination role has it’s challenges as the participating teachers have different levels of confidence with tech in general. Keeping the ISTE Coaches Standards in mind, I really wanted to be there as a facilitator and scaffold this opportunity for them, while still putting the classroom teacher in the driver’s seat. I knew it would feel overwhelming for some, but I’m working towards taking the training wheels off for staff at our school, and I want them to begin finding answers for themselves, rather than relying on me to find the answers for them. Initially I had an encouraging 11 respondents. Yet after maintaining my position, and continually guiding them to look and refer to specific areas on the blog for their answers, only 4 teachers decided to commit. Nonetheless, as this is my first year in this role and at this school, I see every new project and challenge as an opportunity to ‘sandbox’ it and follow up with evidence and success stories for the following year.
One of the biggest challenges was coordinating the flipgrid video, as we need 1 video on our school’s behalf, yet not all teachers work on the same campus. For this first week’s task I decided to support teachers and asked each class to submit a few photos or collages answering the questions posed on Week 1 Flipgridwhich focused on Our School & Community. A few teachers found this task time-consuming, and at the end of creating the iMovie, I realised I needed to video the video itself in order to upload the final product onto Flipgrid. Whoops…huge learning opportunity for me! I ended up contacting the coordinators of the project (Carolyn Skibba and Mary Morgan Ryan) who suggested sharing the flipgrid across the 4 classes, so each class took turns responding to future weekly questions. I thought it was pretty incredible how responsive they were and how quickly they were able to partner with me in finding a solution for our school. This interaction here further emphasises the importance of community, networks and connectivism, in order for authentic learning to happen. Without Twitter and email connections, how could educators and classrooms troubleshoot together?
The project also has a fantastic twitter feed to under #ifyoulearnedhere and I’ve already exponentially expanded my PLN just from following participants in this feed. I just love how this project promotes natural integration of social media and collaboration tools!
Changing Learning Landscapes
Without question, this project illustrates how educational landscapes are changing and expanding. No longer are we confined to the walls of our classroom.. for sharing learning globally is both encouraged and expected in many schools already. No longer is learning separated by its discipline, we can connect all disciplines through project-based learning opportunities. No longer does communication and showcasing exist solely in writing and images..we have opportunities for live video-feed and engaging with classrooms in real-time. No longer do we need to refer to a guide book to find answers…we can contact the creators themselves! I think this project is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the kind of learning that can happen, both for teachers at my own school and beyond. I was inspired by Kim Cofino’s related blog post that outlines Step by Step how to set up a global collaboration. At the moment, I feel I’m playing catch up on a few of those steps as I troubleshoot and find the best way to support teachers in my coordination role, but overall I am thrilled to be participating in this unique opportunity for students & teachers and can’t wait to see where our learning stands in 6 weeks when it’s all finished.
Rewind to 1992: Picture two Canadian kids (ages 8 & 10), sitting in pyjamas, watching Back to Future II (on VHS, naturally) and the moment it’s over, rushing to the family garage to craft our very own Hoverboards from old boxes.
I know I’m not the only 80s kid who’s been impatiently anticipating 2015…and now that it’s finally here, feeling pangs of nostalgia and disappointment that most of what Universal Pictures promised did not actually materialise into every day life.
Ok, well maybe some things did materialise but how accessible are these new technologies, and do they exist because of an actual need …or simply because an imaginative screen-writer made it up? Gawkerexplores the 14 things Back to the Future actually did get right, which does give me hope that one day every child will cruise around on their very own Hoverboard (thank you Hendersons!)
Let’s take a look at another video produced from around that same year:
Were Apple’s predictions as outrageous as a Hollywood script writer’s? To what extent can we anticipate changes that are predicted before their time?
The first time I saw this video was at the Apple Distinguished Educator’sGlobal Conference this past July 2014. And my reaction was complete disbelief at how spot-on Apple was in predicting the changes education would see at the turn of the century: video conferencing, collaborating ‘online’, mobile touch-screen devices, project-based learning, inquiry & design cycles..and the growing need to connect and network outside classroom walls. I’m sure those watching this video back then were unconvinced that it was anything more than an idealistic pipe dream, like much of the technology envisioned by screen-writer, Bob Gale, for Back to the Future II.
When I think about predictions for education, such as those outlined in 21 Things That Will Be Obsolete in 2020(written 5 years ago)I find myself experiencing a mix of excitement, anticipation, and pending disappointment. I mean, how often does what’s predicted truly materialise? Why are we stuck anticipating the future when it’s actually already here?
Cardboard Hoverboards vs. The Real Thing
There was something real about the cardboard Hoverboards my brother and I used to play on. In our minds, they were flying. They took us anywhere and everywhere we wanted…without even having to leave the backyard. We truly believed we would grow up in a world where everyone had a Hoverboard, and it wasn’t a question of how, but when. Had we not seen the film, explored the possibility of a flying skateboard, could we (and other children) have ever embarked on this imaginative journey, which is now being realised by a kickstartercampaign?
Since the turn of the century (already 15 years ago) there’s been a lot of talk about 21st Century Skills, Classrooms, Learners, Schools. Yet despite the research and projections, many schools seem to think these are ‘for the future’ and not right now. Why is this? What is the difference between a Hollywood film predicting the future, Apple predicting advancements in tech, and credible educators, researchers and experts predicting the changes in education as whole? According to Shelley Blake-Plock, some of the ’21 obsolete things for 2020′ include the following:
Desks: The 21st century does not fit neatly into rows. Neither should your students. Allow the network-based concepts of flow, collaboration, and dynamism help you rearrange your room for authentic 21st century learning.
Differentiated Instruction as a sign of a distinguished teacher: The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn’t yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won’t make you ‘distinguished’; it’ll just be a natural part of your work.
Fear of Wikipedia: Wikipedia is the greatest democratizing force in the world right now. If you are afraid of letting your students peruse it, it’s time you get over yourself.
Paper: In ten years’ time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%. And the printing industry and the copier industry and the paper industry itself will either adjust or perish.
While I’m sure the article was meant to provoke educators (and did it ever, if you scroll to the comments section) I couldn’t help reading it, smiling, and thinking…could all this really happen in 5 years time? My gut says no, but the creative cardboard-hoverboard-maker inside me thinks What’s stopping us from trying?
In 2008, Sir Ken Robinson delivered an infamous lecture on the need for Changes in Education Paradigms . RSA modified this lecture into a conceptual visual-note style film:
If these ideas have been around for 3/4 of a decade, why haven’t more schools changed their focus and embraced these changing paradigms? If experts have been researching, advocating and predicting the need for these changes, why haven’t all schools adopted a standard set of 21st Century Skills, such as those so clearly laid out by ISTE?
My experience in four IB international schools (infour countries) since 2007 has shown me that more than ever schools need resources and support to create a cohesive program for digital citizenship education, throughout the school. The ISTE standards already offer this, and are a comprehensive collection of outcomes schools can adopt. These “are the standards for learning, teaching and leading in the digital age and are widely recognized and adopted worldwide. The family of ISTE Standards work together to transform education” (ISTE) Most impressively, they support development for all levels of an educational institution, not just for students but for all stake-holders in a child’s education…including teachers, coaches and administrators.
Visionary Leadership: Educational Administrators inspire and lead development and implementation of a shared vision for comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformation throughout the organization.
Digital Age Learning Culture: Educational Administrators create, promote, and sustain a dynamic, digital-age learning culture that provides a rigorous, relevant, and engaging education for all students.
Excellence in Professional Practice:Educational Administrators promote an environment of professional learning and innovation that empowers educators to enhance student learning through the infusion of contemporary technologies and digital resources.
Systemic Improvement:Educational Administrators provide digital age leadership and management to continuously improve the organization through the effective use of information and technology resources.
Digital Citizenship:Educational Administrators model and facilitate understanding of social, ethical and legal issues and responsibilities related to an evolving digital culture
How many more years of 21st Century research, projections, lectures until society as a whole demand these expectations of a school community and leadership team? We’re 15 years in already.
While researching links to include in this blog post it was incredibly encouraging to learn about schools that have been embracing these shifting paradigms. International schools like UWCSEA & Shekou International School (who both were winners of 21 Century School-of-the-Year) are paving the way forward both from a technological perspective and overall philosophy for what the future of learning looks like. It’s evident looking at these examples fromUWCSEA and SIS that they value a lot of the ideas outlined in both ISTE and Blake-Plock’sarticle.
Not one of these principles for a learner-focused classroom mentions technology or devices explicitly. Rather, this visual depicts the very skills practice we could be facilitating through the use of technology.
If I were to link these 8 indicators with tech exemplars it may look something like this:
Voice: Blogs, Join an online network, Twitter, Sign a petition for change
Choice: Multiple platforms/apps for publishing, multiple devices, visual/audio/text creation
Opportunities for Innovation: Documenting learning and creating a film/stop-motion to show the process; turning a simple retell/summary into something innovative
Critical Thinkers: Comment on blogs/articles; create an opinion-based multimedia piece in response to something students learnt/read/watched
Problem Solvers: Student tech ambassadors, helping with trouble-shooting; Students have‘dabble time’ with a new app and learn how to use it without any direct guidance
Self-Assessment: Students look at exemplars and establish criteria for a multi-media eBook; Create criteria for blog posts & commenting; Peer-peer feedback;
Connected Learning: Using Twitter as a way to connect with other schools & students; sharing learning via blogs; joining collaborative projects like #ifyoulearnedhere
Cardboard Prototypes Are Better Than NO Prototype
So what is it about education that makes the majority so hesitant to move beyond what we all grew up with? Are we getting ahead of ourselves and anticipating a future in education that only exists somewhere like Universal Studios? Will all schools ever fully embrace the need to change or only those willing to build a model from cardboard scraps first?
I think the real change in education lies with the individuals who follow through with the projected ideas. The ones who jump at the opportunity to try out the weird, new gadgets, connect with other schools & teachers, and take risks in their own classrooms. While we wait for the decision-makers to adopt comprehensive standards like ISTE, for the self-proclaimed tech-dinosaurs to pick up an iPad and dabble, nothing is happening but the passing of time. The fast approach of the future. So, while we wait, there really is nothing stopping you or me from implementing these principles into practice. We can take ownership of our current learning spaces and ~ through inspiration, trial and error ~ create a ‘rough draft’ (or cardboard cut-out) of what it could look like one day in all classrooms globally. Taking advantage of professional learning networks like Coetailand Twitter empowers all of us to maintain the idealistic standards for a digitally innovative classroom, even if it seems far-fetched at the moment. Seeking out opportunities for connecting and collaborating with schools and teachers who are already implementing 21st Century ideals, even if our immediate community hasn’t fully adopted them, brings our classroom and the education paradigm one step closer to it’s next shift. For how can anyone truly envision the change without seeing it first as a prototype?