Here’s a presentation I did on the value of a Personal Learning Network (PLN) as part of a TeachMeet@PLANE online session on the 25th of July, 2012.
The presenter notes DEFINITELY help you make sense of it all. You will need to visit the actual Slideshare site to see them. Just click on this link to go there.
After a recent #pechat on Twitter not long ago (follow this link to see an extract on Storify) I knew I had something to share about formal research and teaching practice, but it was hard to get the thoughts buzzing in my head and crystallise them into words. So I did what I normally do to get things flowing – I went for a ride and things started to fall into place.
Let me start by saying – I love analogies. It’s probably the narrative aspect of them that gets me in and helps me explain things to myself, as well as to the kids at school. I love what stories and narrative can do to a dry concept. There will be some judgements and morals, just like all good stories. So bear with me, because it might start off far fetched, but hopefully it will become clearer for you, like it did for me.
To me, peer reviewed, serious academic research is the Olympic athelete (let’s call him Jim) of developing thought and practice. Jim is usually in the domain of theorisers on a world stage who have something to prove at an elite level. Jim competes in a high stakes, reputation based competition for the quest for gold. Jim has one aim in mind, and is funded for one purpose. For the everyday teachers it can be hard to understand the context of Jim’s hard work, but they do hear the applause from his supporters at the end when something great happens.
Conversely, anecdotal innovative teaching in the classroom can be seen as the local league (lets call them Jo). Jo usually finds their work organised and conducted with limited resources. Jo doesn’t always have the luxury of focusing on their competition exclusively – they usually juggle extra curricular duties (usually as volunteers) while advancing and developing their own skills.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen a mutual distain develop between Jim and Jo sometimes, based on the lack of a nexus of understanding based on a variety of things. Purpose. Relevance. Validity. Sort of like two spectators at a match having a crack at each other about which of their teams are better.
I’ll let you ponder that, then we’ll push on.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that what I do in schools today is based on research. Research delivered by my course lecturers to give me a chance of understanding what I faced in teaching. And I know that throughout my career, research has been used to support advances in, for example, teaching quality usually( unfortunately) to blank or confused faces in the audience. I’d contend that teachers don’t get it. And here’s the rub – it’s not the actual research that’s the problem – it’s quite often the package it comes in that does the damage.
Usually, teachers looking at “proper” research do it for a external reason. As part of an aspirational academic qualification or as part of a submission application that needs a research as a justification. In my experience, teachers rarely “do research” in the peer reviewed, academic sense. Many conduct project based activities to address local issues that may draw on research as a starting point, but these are rarely reported on or are peer reviewed, apart from their colleagues. The kudos received from their colleagues and supervisors can be the make or break for future work of this nature. The formal research advocates need to do some hard thinking when it comes to teachers and schools. Poorly presented research that isn’t synced with teacher needs, or the notion that only peer reviewed work counts as valid gets teachers involved in local innovation offside. Being told that their hard work at innovating (including work that achieves growth in student engagement in PE for example) is merely “anecdotal” and not as valid or worthwhile is frankly insulting. It’s a bit like the air of superiority that Jim the Olympic athlete could have when he competes at a local league. Sure, Jim can say all the right things and be a sport about it, but when it comes down to it, they think they’re in the wrong place. Which is a pity, because they were probably there once, aspiring to faster, higher, stronger.
In the old days, amateurism in the Olympics was not only aspired to, but a condition for participation. As the Olympics, arguably, become more a commercial venture, the pressure to abandon the level playing field that amateurism provided resulted in the Olympics we have today. I’m not usually one to call for winding back the clock, but I think we could learn from this. Why not place the school innovators and academic researchers on the same level playing field of credibility, value and validity? Why not spend more time studying what innovators are doing in schools and developing practice from there? This might be part of the issue – that research isn’t reflecting what practitioners want, in a way that they want it. Maybe there are pressures that make the stakes too high for tertiary academia to meet classroom innovators in the middle?
I’ll probably get shot down by some for not including research in this post, and being too anecdotal. But that’s the part of the problem. Apart from specific needs based research that I seek out, it is hard to find stuff out there relevant to what I do. And isn’t behind a paywall. I will, however, particularly acknowledge the work of Dr Ashley Casey & Victoria Goodyear at the University of Bedfordshire & the PEPRN site, Dr David Kirk and his excellent work on PE pedagogy and Shane Pill as being leaders in bringing research to the classroom teacher. Prior to writing this, I was really interested in research on what teachers thought of research but there was precious little I could find on the topic. Perhaps some one could point me in the right direction?
So, back to those two spectators. Perhaps they should stop having a go at each other and concentrate on the game. And Jim should remember that whilst Jo may not be in the same rarified air as he may be, they both have a love of their discipline that each can help improve. In my humble opinion 🙂 Jonesy
Read any column about musicians and they’ll invariably be asked about their inspirations & influences. Listen to their music and you can probably hear the influences they mentioned.
I got to wondering about where I get my inspiration and influences from for the work I do. Do I just derive previous work in PE, or professional learning, or whatever, to create a new product? Should I?
I remember reading about Will Wright and his sources of inspiration for his games SimCity and later The SIMS(1)
About SimCity he said
“Most people, when I tell them that SimCity is really about gardening, they understand it, but they’ve never thought about it. In fact you’re tilling the soil, you’re planting the seeds, and wonderful things popup, and you have to weed the garden. The process of playing SimCity really maps much more to a garden than it does to a train set”
More interestingly The SIMS was a combination of Christopher Alexander’s book on urban design and community livability “Pattern Languages” and watching kids play with a dollhouse. Wright described his thinking on The SIMS as starting out being “a dollhouse for boys and strategy game for girl”
So, inspiration and influence doesn’t just have to be confined to where you usually live it or see it in your work.
My point being – do we as educators have to draw on just education custom and practice for inspiration when creating something new? Do we risk dressing up the old as new?
I say think outside the box. Draw inspiration from patterns, philosophies or designs anywhere – games, nature, art, popular culture, media – the options and possibilities are endless. I believe a design philosophy like this will make education and learning much more vibrant and exciting fro our students. And mean you have a lot of fun yourself.
(1) Chan, D. “The Philosophy of the SIMS” 1993 (available as PDF here)
Wikipedia – A Pattern Language
I don’t know about you, but I don’t always have time to check out links from Twitter, especially when I’m in the run. I really appreciate the Favourite function, which allows me to come back and read stuff later that looked intriguing.
So, once a week, I’m going to do a short post on a tweet that I’ve found useful for what ever reason.
This week at work I’ve been exploring animation as a method of getting a message across to an audience in a short, sharp, funny and informative way. So when I saw the tweet below from @pipcleaves, my interest was piqued:
The Edudemic post that Pip referred to mentioned some animation sites that look great for me as a beginner, but most importantly they look perfect for kids in class too. In particular, any PE teachers looking to recommend to their students an engaging and creative way to demonstrate their knowledge of concepts could find these really useful.
If you use something from the site, let the #pegeek crew know how you went.
Communism– a political and economic theory proposing the replacement of private ownership of goods or capital with common ownership and distribution upon need. (“Communism.” -Ologies and -Isms. 1986. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Feb. 2012)
Capitalism – In a capitalist economic system most productive assets are held by private owners, and most decisions about production and distribution are made by the market rather than government command. Capitalism thus suggests a system of economic regulation that involves minimal state involvement (The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States | 2005 | KERMIT L. HALL )
Fascism – is a reactionary and revolutionary ideology that emerged across Europe after World War I. Fascism was partially developed in Italy and became fully developed in Germany as a reaction against the unrestrained liberal capitalism of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which promoted individualism over communal organization. Fascism as an ideology is anti-Marxist in its militarization of culture, society, and the economy and its rejection of social reforms as a means to create community. As in communism, fascism emphasizes the primacy of the collective unit; however, fascists reject communism’s internationalism and instead define the community as a racial group whose passionate, heroic sacrifice for the nation will fulfill its historical destiny (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences | 2008 )
Utopia – an ideal commonwealth whose inhabitants exist under seemingly perfect conditions. Hence “utopian” and “utopianism” are words used to denote visionary reform that tends to be impossibly idealistic. (Encyclopaedia Brittanica)
As politics appears to be the flavour of the month in Australia, my thoughts recently drifted to musing on the existence of edupolitical ideologies. I thought – why not? Seeing as how an increasing amount of educational talk and thought is framed is non-educational terms (business has clients and stakeholders – now so do we; education and schools get an annual checkup – just like the one’s doctors give) I wondered how well political ideologies and education would mesh. Not just (INSERT LOCAL POLITICAL PARTIES HERE), but foundation political ideologies, like the ones at the start of this post.
In order to make this a relatively painless, quick and hopefully coherent exercise, I think it’s wise to observe some boundaries – for instance, covering every political persuasion is an impossible task. And narrowing the scope of the comparison to one issue that has generated some discussion lately – namely the ownership and sharing of ideas – seems prudent. If I avoid allegorical clumsiness and the mesh is valid, then others may see additional ways to apply the notion and may want to further the story themselves.
At the start of this post, I’ve supplied the four definitions as a stimulus of sorts, and they will be the foundations of my thoughts. Everyone has heard of them (probably with varying degrees of interpretation) but I’m hoping that these generic statements will suffice.
The suggestion that there are edupolitical ideologies might seem ridiculous and a waste of time to some, but I think it’s got plenty to do with how teachers collect, use, remix and then propagate their ideas and resources. It has to do with your views on copyright, ownership and freedom of knowledge. It has roots in your social awareness and personal upbringing, and in your circumstances past and present. It could also be a product of the recent influence of others – the faceless men in your spheres of influence that shape your thinking.
This exercise is always going to be tinged with folly, but I believe there are some serious thinking points involved too. So with this in mind, check out the table below:
The obvious question first – as an edupolitical ideologist, where do your allegiances lay? Is it cut and dried, or more shaded and qualified?
Having said that, just like political parties, there are various factions and shades that blend these distinct groups into smaller parties and belief groups. As there should be. Subscribing to one philosophy holus bolus probably isn’t wise.
But to me the overriding question is “How should we vote when it comes to collecting, remixing and sharing ideas? Are ideas capital to be bought and sold? Or should ideas be freely found, used and moved on, with acknowledgement of the previous users? It can be argued that no idea these days is original, just a variation on precursor themes. Even if a new “discovery” in pedagogy is made, should it be kept for profit? Already court cases in the medical world argue that discoveries shouldn’t be patented
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,600 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.
I was having a conversation with a colleague in the car the other day. We were talking about someone losing an iPhone. My mate said “he should have Find My Phone activated, cause then he’d find it easily”
The fact that at that particular moment we were moving along in the car got me to thinking. One aspect of GPS tracking I’ve always wanted to achieve was “live” tracking of some type of movement. You know, like in the movies, when the bad guy’s car has a tracker attached to it and the good guy can follow them in real time.
I’ve already played around with using GPS dataloggers to track athletes, but the appeal of “live” tracking of athletes with cheap, accessible devices has only just moved from idea to reality. I hope.
So it occurred to me, what if I could exploit the Find My Phone app to create a live tracker?
The iPhone is becoming ubiquitous in schools. Exploiting this fact, and using the Find my Phone app, we could work toward realising the live tracking dream. You need to install the app on your iPhone (and I think it needs iOS5 as well). Then, using iCloud on your PC, you can see where your device is, assuming its switched on. For my live tracking idea to work, I’m hoping that as you move, the location of the phone should reliably move too, creating a basic live feed of the route you are taking.
How would you keep this track live and vibrant for posterity? Without trying it, I’m guessing the method of recording the live feed would be a bit clunky, most likely a basic video screen recording of an manually updated iCloud Map, showing the location of the moving device. I won’t know until I give it a go.
A couple of questions spring to mind.
How could this be useful and, more importantly, meaningful in a PE class?
And, has anyone tried it already? Or has someone got another FREE system of live feed GPS happening they’d like to share? I know Instamapper does this, but it doesn’t seem as simple as Find My Phone. Real Time GPS Tracker for Android also looks like a solution for those with Android devices.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
In the job I’m currently working in, I’ve had plenty of information coming over my desk and through my screen on what modern education looks like, sounds like, feels like, smells like. Edu thinkers are not only calling for change, but many are stepping up and going about bringing that change into reality. My thoughts naturally move to what all this has to do with PE and what it will look like from now on as well.
There is certainly a move away from traditional “schooling” and practices in education, and PE is certainly not immune from this train of through. In fact I think in many respects the teaching of PE needs a shake, like a dusty old blanket. The days of the blackboard teacher are rapidly ending, with the reliance of “sage on the stage”, face the front, desks in rows, “repeat after me” teaching consigned to a necessary redundancy. Traditional PE practice of “give me some laps”, chuck them a ball, captains picking teams and ” BMI as assessment” (to name a few) need to go the same way.
The shift to “modern teaching” can be fraught with frustrations for many leaders, with school politics, staff resistance and a lack of change leverage opportunities stopping many transformational journeys before they start. Even the word “teaching” has a redundancy around it – but I’ll come back to this later.
So what do modern students and their teachers need in C21?
There is an absolute plethora of views on what today’s students need to “get” from school. There are common themes.
Most studies say in words to the effect that “Within the context of core knowledge instruction, students must also learn the essential skills for success in today’s world, such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration” (http://www.p21.org/)
The implications for teachers and what they do it class is changing too.
Most agree that teaching “knowledge for today” is not good enough – our teaching needs to be for the future. Information ages rapidly. Students need skills that take that into account.
Students need to become lifelong learners – the idea that knowledge and skills acquired at school are just to get you through this year’s exams is redundant. Learning needs to become a flexible and resilient habit of mind – in both students and teachers.
Learning environments need to be agile – as a PE teacher agility is something we talk about as a highly desirable quality in movement. So should it be in our lessons. Immobile, inflexible players on a team are soon found out and become a liability. So, too, does un-agile (is there such a word?) thinking about teaching
ICT shouldn’t be integrated into learning environments – it should be ubiquitous. Mobile devices are carried by our students almost continually outside the school fences, but are mostly banned in classrooms. There is a definite disconnect there.
Professional learning for teachers needs to be individual and situational. And available 24/7. Personal learning networks are no longer optional.
Utilisation of learning taxonomies like Biggs SOLO work, where adding complexity to a learning pathway adds rigour and meaning to learning experiences.
Specifically to PE, there are some great things happening in shifting what we do into the future. Jarred Robinson , Jay Trevaskis, Dr Ash Casey and Vicki Goodyear, Ben Jones, Joey Feith and Clarinda Brown (to name but a few using the #pegeek tag on Twitter) are exploring and sharing their journeys in making PE meet the future.
This brings me back to terminology – the word “teacher” suggests one way movement of information. To accomplish many of the things that I’ve just mentioned, a change in job description is needed, one that PE teachers will relate to.
The word “coach” is closer to what we should do. It suggests someone working with people aiming for a goal, and our job is to maximise that potential through tailoring a program that meets their needs for the future. In saying that, I do acknowledge that the word “coach” has suffered at the hands of people that don’t coach well, and it carries a stereotypical image that we might be best advised to avoid. Who has a better name?
So what are the implications for PE in the future? I don’t think it’s enough to rest on the bandwagon of “obesity action”. This certainly gives the work done in PE faculties a high profile, but there are some tensions here too. Fighting a society wide problem always seems to be PE’s lot. Competing with much louder and seductive voices can be difficult. It can be daunting to plan for and can easily appear to be on the verge of failure. That’s not to say we don’t try, but our approaches need to be quality. And what is quality teaching in tacking obesity, or any other societal health crisis? Ill-conceived programming can be very counter-productive.
I see PE’s greatest sphere of influence in the skills that researchers are advocating as essential. Coincidentally, they are traditionally core business for PE. From the quote I used before, skills like critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration are what students will need to be coached in. You don’t have to think too much about how PE teachers do this work day in and day out already.
In Australia, we are about to see the birth of a National Curriculum in Health & Physical Education. From what I’ve seen and heard already, it’s draft form caters for many of the things already mentioned in this post , so kudos to the designers for that. PE advocates in Australia will have the opportunity to help shape the final product. Now is the time to build a curriculum that grows into the future for the benefit of both the students and ourselves.