using what they know

Students complain that Information Processes and Technology (IPT) course is too theoretical.  Ipso facto, boring, especially relative to the more hands-on and generally fun Information and Software Technology (IST) .  They’re right: there are a lot of concepts. BUT they’re wrong: it is not boring – though it can be.  That can be said of any subject/course, right?

The challenge (I love them, remember?) – as with any subject – is how to make it interesting and better yet, meaningful and relevant.

The irony is, in this day and age, we live and breathe the content of these courses. The problem is we don’t see the connection, much less tap into our experience and knowledge.

I’m not saying this is the best way to do it but this is how I’ve faced this challenge, for example, to teach the design tools in the Software Development Lifecycle. So, I started with this on the whiteboard which got their attention straight away:

Identifying the external entities was an interesting exercise, especially when we got to 3rd party apps and sites – so what are APIs? (I hope some of them try to find out). We had interesting discussions on what information flows in and out of the system (talking about digital citizenship stuff, it’s good).  We got talking about multimedia data types (revising, it’s good).  We got talking about apps they use as do I (building relationships, it’s good)…..and we’d only just started.

I got students to come up to the board and draw a Data Flow Diagram. My volunteer  called out for help and they came. Good, eh? They worked together and came up with something. It wasn’t right but it highlighted some misconceptions  (opportunities for learning, it’s good), questions about information processes (more revision, good stuff) and importance of assertiveness and social skills (all good stuff).

We also used facebook registration as examples for Decision trees and Decision tables – usually ‘boring’ stuff but a lot easier to understand using an example they’re all familiar with. They learned about the design tools and appreciate why we have them, in the first place (bonus).

I will also use facebook to look at the next core topic – Information Systems and Databases….they don’t know that yet. Dan Haesler will be happy – I’m driving down the social media way  😉

But this post really isn’t about facebook , social media or even IPT. This is about tapping into what students are familiar with or care about, to teach something new or to help them in the process of abstraction (recall I said that IPT content is mostly stuff we experience but not necessarily get into abstraction?).  It is also about taking a risk because it’s outside the syllabus and no curriculum support (Dr Sarah Howard will be so proud of me – haha) Truth is, the syllabus hasn’t kept up with technology (understandably so) in that social media itself is an abstraction – it does not strictly fall into the main info systems covered by the syllabus: transaction processing system, decision support system, multimedia system and automated manufacturing system. YET, it’s arguably the most prevalent info system there is now and a perfect example of how muddled or interlinked the different types of info systems really are – silos help us understand but we must remember to re-connect….I digress, erm, do I? The other risk is that as an info system, there’s a fair bit I don’t know about facebook – I’m saying “I don’t know a lot” in this class. The upside is that it helps teach how the tools learned in IPT help us learn a bit more about it….situated learning?

I’ve actually applied a fair bit of what I learned from PLANE’s Festival of Learning, within a few days of attending it. Good, eh?

I love a happy post full of learning. cheers all!

Festival of Learning Day 2

Day 2 lived up to Day 1. Could I end there? 🙂

Seriously, the themes from day 1 carried on.  My main takeaway from Dean Groom  is the importance of imagination and giving opportunities to not only let this surface/play but to used to meet a need to find a solution.  Actually, he mentioned this equation: tools + imagination + need = solution. I also appreciated him echoing Greg Alchin’s message of leveraging technology affordances to address accessibility.

Dr Bron Stuckey inspired us to pick up our hero journey as we learn more about PLANE and becoming better teachers for ourselves, our students, our peers.  While I’m not personally sold on the hero thing (I’ve got issues carried over from my IT days), I’m definitely sold on the idea of a learning journey being a narrative as a good hero journey should be and definitely on the idea that fun/enjoyment should be part of it.

If really pushed to do pick just one thing I can act on from the plethora of ideas gained from the conference, it’d have to be this: promote well- being of students and staff alike, thanks to Dan Haesler.   I previously blogged about what makes people tick which does help promote well-being. Dan spoke at length of Seligman’s PERMA model: Positive emotions, (active) Engagement (vs conformity), Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment.  So many ways or angles to act on promoting well-being.  And if  still lacking inspiration, find some in Dan’s crowd-sourced wallwisher here.

I found Mark Treadwell really affirmed many of my thoughts on teaching, e.g. importance of concepts (vs topics), understanding the learning process, the beauty (my term) of inquiry. “Identify the concept, keep the body of knowledge small, apply knowledge to a number of contexts and practice.”  Apropos contexts, I love how Dan Meyer explains it.

It was really nice to be in Donelle Batty’s session, ably supported by students: Nick Patsianas and Nathaniel.  I am partial to their Massively Minecraft: Project Mist story (read more here).  Justly so.

Finally, I reckon Dr Jason Fox‘s approach for his wrap-up keynote was novel.  He showed us his notes – doodles for each session he attended – pity no one doodled his session yesterday! Anyway, just imagine if we didn’t force students to copy as we write it but let them freely doodle their notes.  As a Maths teacher, I have experimented with letting kids make their own definitions/explanations such as SMS or tweet but doodles trumps that, imho.

It was also good to see the PLANE team relax and dance gangnam style – thanks to Rolfe Kolbe, you can watch it too.  Rolfe tried to explain to me as he was doing this but I got lost as he flicked through a few apps. This guy’s an ace.

Well done PLANE team and presenters. The Festival of Learning really got this message across:

Do it. Share it. Lead it.

Finishing up here, just under 500 (not 300) words again.

Repeating my PS: if you’re an educator, register at PLANE.

Festival of Learning Day 1

Lucky me for making it to the Festival of Learning by PLANE.  Like any good festival, there was quite a buzz and lots of people all happy to be there and be part of the festivitites. There was a lot on offer – a smorgasbord of learning and networking opportunities.

I won’t be able to do justice in capturing what it was like because so much happened. Check out#FOL12 on Twitter, this Storify by @Townesy77, PLANE festival page, or within PLANE.

Instead, I’ll list some of my takeaways because this is personalised learning, yeah? My learning.

  • Celebrate Success.  Share your story.  from Adam Elliott – you can win even if no one else expect you to do so.  And when people acknowledge your success, enjoy the ride.
  • Work needed for success. Narratives as context for learning is a motivating factor. from Dr Jason Fox. “What if work is play?”  It’s not that work is play as such but viewed as play – I interpret this as the Mary Poppins spoonful of sugar approach:

In ev’ry job that must be done there is an element of fun

you find the fun and snap! The job’s a game

  • There are many accessibility issues and opportunities for a truly inclusive classroom. Technology can help students communicate (read: share their story). from Greg Alchin. We have the technology. The question is, are we designing inclusive classrooms? Greg also shared the CAP website – lots of resources there.
  • Take care of the teachers. from Dan Haesler. Ok, I just caught the tail-end of Dan’s presentation but I thought this message is so powerful in its simplicity and relevance.  I look at it as a colleague/peer of teachers but also as a parent of kids who have teachers.
  • Be kind.  from Vivien Tuckerman. Again, just one of her many shared thoughts. However, I find that this language is important and far easier to use with students – Respect is more abstract in comparison.  
  • Do it. Share it. Lead it. from Dr S Howard. A good wrap-up keynote because, for me at least, Sarah touched on all the themes mentioned above. There is positive change in education – we must acknowledge and celebrate it. We have to work  – do make things happen. We should share our stories. This is part of taking care of teachers. Technology is there with all its affordances. Sarah’s keynote notes has her keypoints but not the dynamic story-telling on risk-taking  with a meta approach – modeling to the max. (Yes, I have an edu crush and yes I’ve told her because I was lucky enough to have a post-conference de-brief with her, Ben Jones and Donelle Batty).
There are also social takeaways – having met a few  including PLANE’s Roisin and Jenny Lewis – and spending time with my edu friends.
All up, a good first day. Looking forward to tomorrow.
And look… a wrap-up in less than 500 words. I was aiming for 300 though. oh well. 🙂
PS. if you’re an educator, register at PLANE.