I'm running a workshop on digital storytelling this next two days at Taipei European School, Taiwan, and Tom introduced me to Plot Device, the ultimate vid featuring, I think, every plot device you could ever come across in a film clip.
So, here's my challenge. Can my audience of occasionally faithful readers help decipher each and every one of the plot devices in this clip? Answers in the comments, below (and try to write the time of the device beforehand: e.g. 06:09 Sci-fi, Independence-Day-like invasion with flared video.
It's six months since Tom Barrett came on board with me on Ship NoTosh, and in that time we've done a hugely varied amount of work, much of it under wraps due to the nature of our clients, and some of it high profile.
In the latter camp, we were delighted last week to launch Tweeting for Teachers, a report (that covers a lot more than Twitter) showing policymakers and school leaders some simple recommendations that will help more teachers than ever uncover the potential for turbo-boosting their own professional development through the use of social media and offline unconference events, such as TeachMeet and its younger cousin EdCamp. From the NoTosh blog:
Tweeting for Teachers – key recommendations
School leaders should:
learn about and engage with the social platforms that their teachers, parents and pupils are using every day;
use a social media tool as part of their communications with the school community;
validate and support their staff in using social media tools for ongoing professional development;
turn online activity into offline actions, in order to harness the benefits of face to-face interaction alongside those of online interaction;
implement robust systems for evaluating the impact of CPD on teacher effectiveness and student outcomes.
National and local policymakers should:
publish guidelines and support for teachers and leaders to help them use social media in schools;
consider how they will begin to unfilter social media sites for use in schools;
recognise and celebrate self-directed professional learning by teachers using online tools, and the role of social media in this learning;
create a common online space where the whole education community can find each other;
ensure that all Initial Teacher Training courses demonstrate a strong focus on the use of social media tools for ongoing professional development.
NoTosh undertook a significant piece of working in bringing together case studies of teachers and heads who are effectively using social media to take control of their own professional development, and making these accessible through film as well as integration to the report.
The report is one seeking feedback for constant improvement – starting with the 500 tweets during the one hour launch event – and films will continue to be shot and uploaded to the report over the next weeks and months.
We also undertook case studies of how businesses are using social media for professional development, and what education could learn from this. Finally, we developed recommendations for how teachers, heads and policymakers could further exploit the potential of social media to help teachers develop in a cost-effective way.
Over the past week I've twice heard twenty-somethings ponder whether kids growing up today—kids who were practically born with iPhones in hand—will still have the capacity for wonder.
Yesterday as a present for his first day of second grade I brought home an erasable gel pen for my iPhone savvy six year old. After a brief demonstration, he spontaneously hugged me, "I've been waiting for this pen my entire life!"
I think the kids are alright.
Lovely post from Heading East, via Bobulate, which reminds me of the wonder Catriona had the first time she used Skype (and felt comfortable with it by about 90 seconds into the call), the desire she has to get on the iPad every day, but the total delight she gets when the craft kit comes out of its box on a rainy day (which, being Edinburgh in the autumn, is rather often).
Jeremy Clarkson in the Sunday Times (UK) a few weeks ago touched on the supremacy of shaky mobile phone footage in deciding the pecking order of what we, generally, consider important and what we care less about (below). In this tree-falls-down-nobody-sees-it philosophy, have we become dependent on the loudest, clearest, best presented stories to make our decisions, at the expense of more valuable but less tangible ones we need to chew over for longer?
For me, this move towards talking about what we hear about loudest and clearest, rather than talking about the hard stuff that does not come in this "chicken nugget" form of information bundle, is absolutely reflected in the world of education discourse, particularly around discussions on what learning is for.
The echo chambers of the blogosphere, the political classes, the civil servants, parents... they - we - are all as guilty as each other for paying too much attention to the loudest, not necessarily the most vital, discussions for our children's future.
It's too easy to believe that you are collaborating and gaining some kind of otherness just because you've ticked the "collaboration box" of using Skype, a wiki, a blog, whatever medium you wish. Gary Stager picks this up nicely in this Will Richardson post. Will despairs at a teacher's 'inability' to grasp the value of a change to his methods, particularly the perceived value of collaboration to achieve the same goals that the teacher was gaining within his four classroom walls. Rightly, Gary calls into question whether collaboration is really all that worthwhile, all of the time. The answer is: most times not. Small active mixed ability and mixed interest teams, coming up quickly with their own ideas, is often just as effective (if not more so) than a more drawn out collaborative process through technology with teams from around the world, but where those teams consist of people who share the same values, aptitudes and interests as the home crew.
All too often, though, the accents of those with whom we are collaborating, in the broadest sense of the word 'accent', are merely reflections of the views with which we are most comfortable. In this way, we fall for the trap Jeremy Clarkson outlines in his column: "It used to be said if it bleeds, it leads. Now, though, if you want it to stick, you need a pic."
Map overlays Countries are not all given equal status in the learning we do/did at school. Map overlays show this. Examples: Take several of the world's richest and most prominent countries and see how many you can fit into an outline of Africa:
Take four of the world's four richest economies and see how many you can fit inside the richest of all: the United States. (Information is Beautiful, pp.61, 142-3, 202)
Everyone thinks their own country is bigger than it really is. The Brits are as guilty as anyone else. Just listen to the oohs and ahs at these proportionate maps, courtesy of Sheffield-based Alisdair Rae:
The BBC's How Big Really helps people understand the scale of issues around environmental disasters, the war on terror, disease and other global issues, but showing their extent atop the town or city where that person lives:
Real maps, abstract stories Take a map whose coloration or name markings tell a different story. The master of this was CS Lewis with the maps for the Chronicles of Narnia:
Proportionate Maps A wonderful collection of maps from the University of Sheffield, UK, show the world map through different lenses to explore global issues. For example, population density as a map is amongst other concepts on WorldMapper:
Mind maps / Organised Mind Maps Favoured by the Guardian for its coverage of large, complex economy issues, these give a lot of information and show how it relates:
Contrast image and (in words) story Images can be used to make us smile, while words portray the deep, shocking truth. Example: Murderous dictators by facial hair (Information is Beautiful, p.172)
Calligram Write a text that takes the shape of the thing you are describing, adding proportionality or geography to add another level of meaning. Example: The Great Chinese Firewall as shown through websites that are blocked from coming into China and searches that are forbidden within it, in the form of a verbal map.
Proportionate Words The data cliché of Wordle stops being a cliché when it makes a point. Try Tagcrowd if you want to delimit the words and have a more accurate representation of the words that matter (i.e. by automatically getting rid of pronouns, articles etc). Example: Compare political bias in newspapers by TagCrowding the same story across tabloids, right and leftist papers. Copy and paste speeches by politicians who speak about the same issues, and see what really interests them: Obama's vision for education:
versus that of English Education Secretary, Michael Gove:
Listening to a presentation in Belfast from m'old colleague Andrew Brown from LTS, he reminds me of this quote from blogger, storyteller and, yes, content-creator Cory Doctorow, pictured:
Content isn't king. If I sent you to a desert island and gave you the choice of taking your friends or your movies, you'd choose your friends -- if you chose the movies, we'd call you a sociopath. Conversation is king. Content is just something to talk about.
One of the key points I've been driving in the past year has been the importance of schools providing places for conversations and exploration to take place, perhaps through a design thinking-based pedagogy and process. Such a process takes the onus off the teacher to be the one preparing resources for children, effectively doing the learning for the youngster. Instead, it forces interaction around content, rather than content to be consumed or 'learnt', to take centre stage.
In a four-part video series for GETideas I travelled the world in 24 hours and asked four educators I admire what their "two stars and a wish" for learning would be for 2011. I'll blog the films here over the next week.
"Social networking in our school has been vital in engaging students in seeing the connection between learning in school and learning at home.
"Persuading teachers to use Skype in the classroom has resulted in some interesting projects, although the first stage involved teaching them how to use it at home as a form of professional development.
"We need to use what the students have already much more: it might be skills, or it might be equipment that they can bring into the classroom. Handhelds, consoles, mobile phones, research skills, enquiry skills… We're getting there, but we're not quite there yet."
While we're thinking about attention, how often do schools and teachers assume the attention of youngsters, of parents, of our colleagues? My gut feel: nearly all the time.
We assume that learners want to learn because they chose subjects.
We assume that learners will want to learn because we like the way we do something.
We assume parents care about their child's education.
We assume that our colleagues want to learn how to do their jobs better/differently.
We assume that adults know how to learn on their own.
We assume that chuldren don't know how to learn on their own.
We need to work consistently at gaining attention, retaining attention and turning that attention into value, much in the same way as a tech startup like Facebook would do (check out Dave McClure's busy but genius presentation on attention and metrics if you want to delve more into how). I'm fairly convinced that somewhere in these tech startup metrics are the assessment tools for the new forms of learning that are emerging, but fighting against assessment structures of old that don't fit anymore.
And in using new metrics to measure success, we can engage in new learning with more confidence, new learning that is almost certainly more likely to get the attention of those around us.
And 70% have no access to information technology at all.
I'll be in South Africa all week, visiting schools in some of Cape Town's townships tomorrow, and on Wednesday meeting and interviewing the Vice Presidents at Microsoft responsible for making a truly global impact for their company, and for the country's 12million learners' futures in the years to come.
I'll wrap up the week with some of the most innovative technology stories emerging from around the globe as 400 educators converge on the Cape for a jamboree of teaching and learning as South Africa hosts Microsoft Partners in Learning's Worldwide Innovative Education Forum, the first time it's set foot on the continent, and 18 years after Microsoft set up its first office here.
This country does, without doubt, quickly present the digital divide in stark terms. Hotel internet is available at a good rate (about $15 a night), and it's fast. But only 70% of schools have access to any form of technology, and only a third of them have access to the web. Reza Bardien, the education lead at Microsoft South Africa sees the imperative to prepare the 12million learners here for the digital workplaces that await those who make there - everything from the restaurant to the shop where I bought my power adaptor runs of PCs with SQL databases.
But her admission that "it is a daunting task" is understatement to say the least.
Here's what I'm hoping to find: in a rapidly growing city in the global region fastest recovering from the global financial crisis with a population of whom 40% are under 18 years old, we will find creative approaches to engaging learners on their terms, looking at content that really matters to them, learning that is going to help them survive in the world they have around them. It will be a learning that we recognise in some ways - much in the same way as we recognise Chinese food in Chinese restaurants we've never been to before - but it certainly won't be in consistent and unwavering praise of that education heaven, Finland, and it won't be promoting the ideal model of learning as a North American one, the vision which, for the past month of charter school mayhem, assessment and standards groaning and Education Nation soundbites, one might feel is the only system worth discussing on the most common "international education" blogs and magazine sites.
I'm thinking that learning at these kind of extremes, as Charles Leadbeater has shown this past year in his report for Cisco (pdf) and subsequent TED Talk, offers some direction to those of us in Europe, North America and well-off Middle East and Far East countries. Seeing how learning has adapted here to be productive, I hope to be able to better envision what Scotland's learning might look like if we were to strip it back to its students' real, authentic needs, the needs that we might see pulling on us if we seek it hard enough, and not those that are pushed to them by curriculum, strategy and policy.
I can't wait to share my video (on my Vimeo channel and YouTube channel), photographs, tweets (#mseif) and reflections here on the blog and on the Huffington Post, about how learning from the extremes might offer some inspiration for troubled education systems on the other side of the equator.
If you have questions of your own that you'd like me to ask students, teachers or education leaders in the townships, or Microsoft's most senior education VPs, let me know straightaway, and I'll post their answers.
School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.