Freedom to imagine

This guest post by Steve Wheeler was previously published in his blog, Learning with ‘e’s.

Photo: Steve Wheeler, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
Photo: Steve Wheeler, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Sir Ken Robinson has a lot to say about creativity and learning. The two are, or should be, inextricably linked. One of his remarks is that imagination needs to emerge as creativity, as a natural process. He goes on to argue that traditional school systems constrain or even negate this process. He argues that this is largely due to the mechanistic, industrialised approach schools have taken for many years. Other constraints are the logistical problems such as lack of time or space for play, exploration and discovery that are familiar in many schools. All children have great imaginative power, but gradually this ability to imagine can be eroded as they are processed through formal education systems. In short, Robinson believes school is killing creativity. But this may all be about to change. The teacher led nature of traditional education is being challenged, not only ideologically, but also as a result of the pervasiveness of new technologies.

One question that is often asked within this discourse, is whether technology can actually improve education by providing learners with opportunities to be creative.

For me, the answer is yes, in certain circumstances.

Give a child a games console and he will play a game on it. He will have great fun, but will he learn anything significant? Will he be creative? It depends of course on what the game is, whether it is linked to authentic learning, and what specialised support is on offer from trained educators. It also depends on whether he feels he is in an environment where he can take risks, and express himself freely. The same applies to any technology withing any formal learning context. In informal contexts, children are very expressive and creative through their technology.

For formalised learning, students require scaffolding, but the scaffolding does not necessarily have to take the form of a ‘knowledgeable other person’ as Vygotsky suggested. Today, technology, particularly technology that is personal and portable, can provide similar forms of scaffolding for learning. Increasingly, teachers are adopting roles as support for learning, and as facilitators of learning spaces. For creativity to be maximised, learners need to be free to imagine, discover, explore and play in spaces where they are psychologically safe. If they make mistakes, they will be able to learn from these, rather than being punished for ‘getting it wrong’.

Give a child a camera and she will be creative…. especially if she knows what she is aiming at.

Creative Commons License
Freedom to imagine by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Diving Deep into PLNs

This guest post by Miguel Guhlin was previously published in his blog, Around the Corner.

Photo: Derek Keats,  CC BY 2.0
Photo: Derek Keats, CC BY 2.0

Old ideas find expression in today’s learning environment.

This weekend, a colleague asked me, “What do you think of The Deep Dive video?” At first, I didn’t understand what she meant. What did this old ABC news video featuring IDEO have to do with personal learning networks (PLN) in schools?

A part of me balked at having to hearken back to an ABC news broadcast to help explain to a group of principals what Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) are about. In fact, I thought it was a bit of a problem. After all, those Deep Dive videos are old. Why couldn’t we just say something along the lines of….

Helping teachers build a PLN accelerates their learning and professional growth. The richness and variety of a PLN makes creating change that leads to enhanced teaching, learning and leading valuable.

I promptly started checking out PLN videos, but most of those focused on the how-to. In fact, that was the complaint I had for myself. In creating a PLN, when you focus on the interaction, you’re missing something. You’re missing out on all groundwork that went before…that groundwork includes relationship-building, building mutual purpose and mutual respect. I would venture that most of our time as leaders should be focused on those 3 core activities. It is a point that George Cuoros acknowledges in his blog entry:

I get a lot of emails asking about creating the conditions for change and recently was asked, “As a new principal, what is the first step to create a better learning environment in our school?”

 

Here is my answer…do nothing.

 

Too many times people walk into buildings and have some great ideas and they start trying to tweak this, and change that, etc., yet that often alienates the people that you want to get better.
What I would strongly suggest is that you sit back, watch, learn, and figure out what people are great at already and build from there. Source: The Principal of Change

As I reflected on The Dive Deep videos, it was apparent several ideas were core. For fun, here are those ideas with what I see as a potential connection to PLNs.

1) Defer to the person with the best ideas.
Unbelievably, we’ve seen that the twittersphere and PLNs defer to the people with the best ideas. It’s not the size of the megaphone that captures people’s attention (not over time), but rather, the quality of the ideas. In fact, it’s all about influence, not authority. The better your ideas, the more influence you have, even if you’re NOT the boss. While in the past, it would have taken a courageous boss to lift up a worker with great ideas, now, it’s very possible for workers to use social media (e.g. Twitter) to find or create ideas that are sticky and worth sharing.

2) Chaos is encouraged, and is perceived as constructive“This is where the crazies live.”
I’ve asked my secretary to make a sign with that sentence about crazies and put it over the door of our offices. Although a network is very ordered, the activity along that network can be quite chaotic and it’s that very chaos that provides the randomness, the variability that engages human beings. If you haven’t tried a “walled garden” approach to social networks, then you may not know that once students and staff have had the opportunity to play “in the wild,” connecting with people from around the world, they are hooked. There’s no going back.

For me, this is a personal experience made true by video games. For many years, I played ‘canned’ video games, games that required no Internet connection. However, now, I’d rather not play a video game unless I’m playing against other real people who happen to be connected. My son, an avid gamer thanks to my efforts, connects daily with people around the world in a way I could never have imagined when I was his age. And, he is richer for those experiences because learning is ALIVE, it’s CHAOTIC…it’s messy.

3) Status is who comes up with the best ideas.
As a veteran article publisher and presenter in Texas, I remember the first time this truth really sank in. It’s when I had to compete to present and submit articles against others from all around the world. Think about that. While I was once was “good enough” to be a Texas presenter, I soon found myself competing against people who were veteran authors and presenters from around the world. This really came home during a virtual conference where I had to compete against no less than Scotland’s Ewan McIntosh! What a terrific incentive it is for learners today that they have to compete, not just against those in their geographic area, but because of modern video conferencing technology, against people from around the world!

Of course, the flip side of that is that I also get to collaborate with people who have the best ideas, who aren’t afraid to make their ideas easy to access via social media.

4) Enlightened trial and error succeeds over the planning of a lone genius. Fail often in order to succeed sooner.
“Has anyone done this before?” It’s a question I’ve asked often over the last year as I began a new job. If the answer was, “No,” I knew I had a better chance of achieving different results than had been in the past. As an avid PLN member, focused on sharing and garnering the benefits of being a connected learner, I’m able to often see what works, or does not. This has tremendous benefits for us as educators as people report how they interact with students, staff, others in ways that are both successful and unsuccessful.

That’s why I love blogging because it allows for transformative reflections that can result in change, if not for you, for others who may be reading. The resulting conversation about failure and success helps you achieve success even if you are a “Rank: Failure.” Why? Simply because it means you can find solutions that much faster and get the feedback you need sooner.

5) Teamwork
When you’re limited to the team that’s on the ground, you’re truly limited. Although you may have an awesome group of folks, your REAL team is out there on the Network, connected to you by ubiquitous technology that changes how you approach every problem and solution.

There are a lot of examples, videos on YouTube that illustrate these points. It’s absolutely genius to try “old ideas” to new ways of accomplishing things. We no longer have to be part of an innovative organization dependent on its employees with advanced degrees to be successful. Now, the world is our’s to explore, to learn from, connect and collaborate with.

Who wouldn’t want to build a PLN that helps them be smarter?

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Diving Deep into #PLNs #twitter #edchat #cpchat #hfsoars by Miguel Guhlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Transferring Photos and Videos Off Your iPad

This guest post by Miguel Guhlin was previously published in his blog, Around the Corner.

When I read this blog entry entitled, Can I Transfer Photo Albums Created On My iPad to My Windows PC? I couldn’t help but feel it was a bit short…here it is:

If you are using the Photos app to create albums on the iPad – those albums will not transfer to the PC.
Those albums do not actually contain the photos or copies of the photos. They merely have a pointer to the original photo in the photos app. The albums created in the Photos app are for local photo organization on the iPad only.
You can transfer photos but not albums.

While this is true, there are ways to make transferring photos organized in albums easy, regardless of Windows/Mac computer.

Approach #1 – Transferable App ($.99)
To transfer a photo album–not videos–from your iPad to a Windows, Mac or Linux computer, you simply need the right app. One of my favorite apps is Transferable, an app that allows you to connect via the IP address (e.g. 192.168.1.101) of your iPad on a local area network. You simply type that address into your web browser on your computer…

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and you’ll see the following:

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Notice that you can get a zip file (compressed file) of all your iPad’s albums. This makes it child’s play to save your iPad Photo Albums to your computerwithout iTunes and a cable.

Approach #2 – Readdle Documents (free)
Ok, let’s say you’re a cheap-skate and don’t want to spend money on Transferable. You could use Readdle Documents, although it will take a few more taps. Simply go into Documents’ settings under FILE MANAGER and turn ON “Show Photos.” Now, you’ll be able to access the photos stored in various albums on your iPad.

You can save a copy of the photos/videos to your Documents folders, perhaps even creating folders to mirror the names of your Photo Albums. Once you’ve done that, you can zip those folders holding your photos, and connect to Readdle Documents via your WiFi network from a computer (just as you might have done with Transferable).

Approach #3 – Dropbox (free)
This approach works photo by photo, but it does get you a copy of all photos on your iPad to Dropbox and at that point, you can do whatever you want with them. Simply install the Dropbox app and allow it to put photos on your iPad into Dropbox. Even if you have a few hundred (or more) as I do, the process shouldn’t take TOO long.

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Are there other ways to get this done? Yes, absolutely! Please share those in the comments. Maybe we can help the iPad Academy folks dig a bit deeper when providing answers to questions.

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Transferring Photos and Videos Off Your #iPad by Miguel Guhlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Active learning spaces

This guest post by Steve Wheeler was previously published in his blog, Learning with ‘e’s.

Photo: Brad Flickinger, CC BY 2.0
Photo: Brad Flickinger, CC BY 2.0

Recently I wrote about collaborative learning spaces, and argued that we are entering unfamiliar territory. The boundaries of informal and formal spaces have blurred significantly, as have the boundaries between the real and the virtual. It appears that it no longer matters where learning occurs, as long as it is meaningful. Some might argue that learning that is situated is the most powerful. It is also important that learning is made to be active and engaging. If any of these components is missing, then clearly learning has not been optimised. When children learn, they do so through interaction with others, through observation and practice, discovery and experimentation and by doing and making. All of these aspects of learning are active. When they enter into formal education, they enter into an artificial environment where learning is managed, directed and organised for them. It is not hard to see how such an artificial transition from active to passive can stifle creativity and demotivate learners.

As a response to the problems of learning in homogenised, regimented environments such as classrooms and  lecture halls, Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) came into being. It is one of several approaches to moving away from tedious and passive learning environments where students are expected to listen, take notes and remember what is being said and presented. TEAL spaces feature several characteristics, including flexible learning spaces where furniture can be moved into many alternative configurations, technology enriched contexts (wireless and untethered, web enabled and personal technologies) and a shift from teacher led lessons to student centred learning, where the learner can take control, and the teacher facilitates. One argument is that simply having access to personalised technologies creates conducive conditions in which active learning can occur. However, the role of the teacher is also paramount in the success of TEAL approaches. Without strategic input from teachers at critical junctures during a lesson, and without some clear goal or set of objectives, students can lose focus, become distracted and go off task.

The idea that students should be able to move freely around the learning space whilst remaining connected is a powerful one. The possibilities of learning through collaboration with other students, and the potential to manage their own pace of learning are also very powerful. Students who can connect to online resources, social spaces and content also have freedom not only to search and discover, but also to create, revise, repurpose and share their own content. A number of psychological and social learning theories can be applied to explain the transformative potential of this approach. These include the Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky) which describes how individual learners can extend the amount they learn when they are connected to other more knowledgeable individuals. The theory of scaffolding (Bruner) also applies where students can gain support for their learning from their peers, their tutors and also through their tools. Social modelling (Bandura) and social comparison (Festinger) may also come into play where learners see the success of other learners and modify their own approaches to optimise the best and most active aspects of their own learning.

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Active learning spaces by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.