Tony Gurr

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Is ELT ‘Broken’? – Part 01: Is it the training or the trainers?

In Conferences, ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training, Uncategorized on 08/05/2017 at 1:21 pm

Telling the truth (TG ver) 080517

I started this post as a bit of a ‘rant’ on FaceBook prompted by a session I did at a conference in Kool, Kalm Kocaelli.

Hulk 01 (TG ver) 080517

 

I asked a simple question:

Is ELT Broken (TG ver) 080517

…and suggested a wide range of reasons why the so-called ‘ELT profession’ is not functioning at optimal efficacy:

The reasons (TG ver) 080517

 

A lot of the participants were a bit gob-smacked at first…but, funnily enough, very few of them disagreed with me!

The Dogs (updated ver) 080517

 

One of the areas I noted was the quality of ‘training’. I didn’t get into the whole Undergraduate Teacher Education or CELTA debate (that would be another 3 to 5 sessions on its own) but noted how so many of our conferences are a total waste of time and how the input/guidance of people that call themselves ‘trainers, consultants and researchers’ is frequently of such low quality – here in canım Türkiyem.

 

Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure (or not…) of seeing a wide range of trainers / presenters at an even wider range of events and conferences around the country – and it would not be an understatement to say I am still totally UNDER-whelmed with the knowledge, skills and attitudes of most of these self-proclaimed ‘experts’.

It’s almost as if many of them have never heard the old saying…‘it doesn’t matter what you say about YOURSELF, it’s more important what OTHERS say about you!’

I have decided to be one of these OTHERS…today!

Truthiness Zamanı (updated ver) 080517

 

Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying everyone on the ‘circuit’ (I really hate that phrase, too) is total crap. There are many trainers and presenters that really help conference participants ‘thunk‘ by asking meaningful questions and sharing great hands-on ideas and materials. These real trainers invest serious time in their sessions, work hard to draw on research (quoting sources), combine this with some original insights of their own, and make their materials ‘reader-friendly’ and ‘useful’. They also use humour effectively, demonstrate their wealth of experience and come across as having integrity and/or being authentic human beingsheck, some are even ‘inspiring’ and help teachers ‘motivate themselves’ to be the best teachers they can be.

AND…I’m even happier that more and more of these rock-solid presenters and trainers are Turkish.

BUT, they are few and far between!

 

Sadly, so many of our ‘sages-on-the-stage’ that stand up (and, ohhhh…how they love standing on the stage!) and then tell us to be ‘guides-on-the-side’ simply are NOT good enough!

Yes, there…I said it!

These so-called training experts do not walk their talk, have more ‘ambition’ than ‘talent’, and more often than not spoon-feed teachers junk from the internet!

Hulk 02 (TG ver) 080517

 

I find it’s easier to group these ‘trainers cum consultants cum researchers’ (that’s actually how many tourism businesses describe themselves in canım Türkiyem – restaurant / bar / disco – değil mi)?

 

TYPE 01 – The ‘Fake-it-till-I-make-it’ Trainer

These trainers usually come with a level of training / experience that you could fit on a postage stamp. Often, they tend to be native speakers (but not always) who find the classroom too ‘hard’ and will grab any opportunity to escape a future of ‘kids in the classroom’.

Some of them are actually quite good learners themselves – but frequently fall foul of the ‘read-a-blog-post-and-tell-the-world’ syndrome. Sad really!

Snake Oil Sellers (TG ver) 080517

Many of them are also quite good ‘salesmen’ (or women) – the problem is that many real educators see them for what they are…‘snake-oil sellers’ who can’t quite pull off the authenticity required for a sustained relationship with teachers or schools. This is mostly as they tend to repeat the same tired ‘stories’ again and again and try to build their ‘brands’ (yes, they use this type of language) with teachers via use of pathetic, little one-liners like ‘What did you learn today’? …one-liners they have, in fact, ‘stolen’ from others!

They tend to have the ego the size of a bus…and lack respect for those Turkish teachers that know what it means to really learn a language and ‘earn your stripes’ through years of trying, failing and learning. This ego, however, is so often very fragile…and hides far bigger issues than a lack of ‘real experience’ in teaching.

 

TYPE 02 – The ‘Know-it-all’ Trainer

Sheldon quote (TG ver) 080517

Loathe to refer to themselves as ‘teachers’ or ‘learners’, these trainers have a dusty M.A or PhD somewhere on their CV’s (if the latter, woe betide you if you forget to add the title ‘Dr’ to your conference poster)! However, most of them have done nothing original since they got their beloved bit of paper – indeed, chances are they did nothing original to get the said bit of paper…they certainly would not have obtained their qualifications if they had been in a higher quality, more serious educational environment.

They still hang onto their love affair with the scientific / academic method and fill their slides with stuff even Superman (with glasses) could not read. To make matter worse, they churn out the same ‘tired’ semi-academic PPTs every time they are invited to an event (some use the same ones for bloody years…that having been said, many of the older ELT native speaker ‘hacks’ do the same)!

The more savvy among them have learned how to edit pictures they download from the internet – but frequently do not cite their sources. Indeed, many of these trainers and presenters try to pull off ‘little fibs’ or ‘white lies’…when they say, for example, ‘This is something I prepared’ or ‘…this is what I call…’! –  and lose all credibility with those of us that are in the know (and we are growing as a group – wifi is free with a cup of coffee these days)!

Teacher Learning (Sackstein quote)

Ego is also an issue for these trainers, too – however, it is their inability to recognise (and praise) the strengths of other presenters or presentations that really stands out (if they bother to stay and watch others…they usually don’t…why would they – they know everything). They tend to opt for back-stabbing and passive-aggressive forms of critique – both essentially driven by jealousy and the fear of being discovered for what they really are – mediocre intellects who have also largely avoided the classroom.

Many of these trainers also like to work on themes like ‘motivation’, ‘inspiration’ and other ‘bleeding-edge topics’ in ELT (also forsaking their academic principles and adopting the ‘read-a-blog-post-and-tell-the-world’ just to say its one of my key research interests’) – the problem is these trainers are so dull, so boring and just leave most of us wanting to cut our wrists!

 

TYPE 03 – The ‘Not-quite-there’ Trainer

Wide quote (TG ver) 080517

I almost did not add this group to my list – their hearts are in the right place, they are eager to share with other teachers and they have the ‘humility’ that Type 01 and 02 trainers sadly lack.

Many of them are very experienced (and successful) teachers…BUT, all of their classroom abilities just do not ‘come together’…they do not ‘gel’ – a good teacher does not always a good trainer make! I think Yoda said this…

Sadly, they are encouraged by commercially-driven or vanity-based TTT (Train The Trainer) Programmes that frequently over-promise, under-deliver and do very little ‘screening’!

 

All three types of trainers are ‘real’ (you probably know a couple by name), they live amongst us and they are waiting in the wings to ‘deliver’ their next ‘performance’. The really sad thing is that many of them just lack the interpersonal abilities, emotional intelligence and reflective skills to realise they are just not cutting it.

It’s almost as if they have never heard the (other) sports saying ‘You are only as good as your last game!‘ Many of these guys have been playing the last 5-6 seasons like this…

…and Publishers have been inflicting them on us by continuing to sponsor them! Now, that is what I call really dumb – not good busyness at all!

These trainers and their sponsors just don’t get what Rita Teyze learned us…

Rita Peirson (TG ver) 080517

…and the fact that teachers do NOT really learn from any of these three Types!

 

A worrying trend, however, is the rise of the ‘Type A / Type B Hybrid’ – a presenter that still wants to hang onto the kudos of being a so-called ‘academic expert’ in an area they really know very little about.

The solution?

Bit of ‘googling’, lot of cutting ‘n pasting and maybe a video from YouTube – just to distract the audience from the lack of real content, thought or analysis. And, if this isn’t quite engaging enough, these hybrids might even throw in a magic trick or (God forbid) pull out the musical instrument that just happened to be in their travel bag!

Canım Türkiyem deserves more!

 

The Bottom Line (TG ver) 080517

Time for our schools and teachers to demand more…

Time for sponsors to lift their game…

Time for these trainers to evolve…from ‘KNOW-it-alls’ to ‘LEARN-it-alls’…

– or EXIT…stage right!

The DNA of GREAT Teachers – 3 “listicles” you have to read!

In Classroom Teaching, Guest BLOGGERS, Our Schools, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training, Uncategorized on 18/03/2014 at 9:59 am

Last week, allthingsLEARNing offered a bout of bloggery from guest-blogger Steve Brown (Is it all in the Genes?).

Today we have a follow-up guest-post from Cas Olivier (all the way from Harties“, a small resort town in the North West Province of South Africa). I never actually got to Hartbeespoort on “my walkabouts” around South Africa – but now I have a reason to do so…next time.

Cas (guest post slide) 01

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The story of how I bumped into Cas in the blogosphere is a funny one!

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About 8 months ago, I was desperately looking for some new images to “steal” for one of my own posts on “GREAT TEACHers”. Yes, I know…some of you “hate” this phrase – but, come on – who among us all does not want their students to say something like – “Tony Hocam is a GREAT TEACHer”?

go on, tell the truth now!

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Well, I was at a total loss – couldn’t find anything new to steal…sorry, “inspire” me! I had got totally fed up of using “brains” and “mirrors”!

I had lunch with my big, little girl and told her what was going on (actually, she wanted to know what all the “swearing” was about…the foul language that had been pouring out of my study all morning)!

Expletive (four)

I mentioned that I had overdone the whole “brain” thing – but I (still) liked the notion of “organic” TEACHing! She looked up and said “Dad…what about DNA – that’s cool”!

I jumped up…kissed her…and ran back to the study!

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Not five minutes had passed…and the wave of obscene expletives began againbloody Google had spat out Cas’ book The DNA of GREAT TEACHers (spat it out straight in my eye it did) and I hated him almost immediately…with a passion!

Expletive (sixteen)

Hey, I am human – get over it! Least I’m honest…

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You see…the same thing had happened to me when I “invented” (yes, I also “steal” ideas from me daughter – I am THAT daddy!) the term ASSESSment Literacy back in 2011 (I still “hate” Richard Stiggins…not really!) LEARNing, CURRICULUM and EDUCATIONAL Literacy, however, are still “mine” (and my big, little girl had nothing to do with them…that time it was “Dexter”, my dog…who will soon have a blog)!

I calmed down…and started “stalkingCas via his website-cum-blogLEARNingDESIGNs – could he be my long-lost brother (my dad had spent time in Cape Town, Durban and the Free State in the late-40’s), acaba?

Cas Hocam – I know you were born in the Free State…but, when exactly WERE you born? I want a date…and a pregnancy calendar!

 

I fell in love with the sample chapters that Cas was so generously sharing on his blog – I liked the complex simplicity of his THUNKs…and the common sense those thunks were screaming at me!

I forgave him (!)…got in touch via mail…and, his first act of cyber friendship was to send me a copy of his book. 

Paying It Forward is alive and well…in the “Harties”!

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Cas and I started chatting about him doing a follow-up to Steve’s post – and although neither of us are fans of “listicles” (TY – Kevin Stein aka @kevchanwow in the big, bad Tweetiverse) he thought it might be fun…to do THREE of themin one post!

So, over to Cas!

DNA Question (for Cas)

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The DNA of GREAT teachers are described from a plethora of vantage points and they all have merit.

My vantage point is my latest book: The DNA of Great Teachers in which I use the ‘DNA-concept’ as metaphor to explain teaching paradigms and explain how teachers’ genetic teaching make-up influences their mindsets and teaching practices.

Once I started to “decode” teaching-DNA, I began to understand more and more about what made GREAT teachers so GREAT!

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GREAT Teachers (for Cas) 01

Let’s start with beliefs – and my first “listicle”:

 

The 10 Beliefs of GREAT TEACHers

  1. Teaching means to facilitate learning.
  2. Lesson planning means converting the curriculum into learning challenges.
  3. Their main tasks are to guide and support students.
  4. Are firstly followers and then leaders.
  5. Teaching is like developing new medicine. It must be based on patient needs and not the design preference of the manufacturer.
  6. The momentum of great teaching is maintained by questions asked by both themselves and the students.
  7. When students are not learning as expected, they change their approach.
  8. They cannot teach learners anything, but can make them think.
  9. Learning always starts from the known and progresses to the unknown.
  10. Lesson must cater for ‘short-legged’ and ‘long-legged’ students.

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As Tony might say – have a THUNK about it.

How many of these reflect your understanding of your own DNA? How many of them are beliefs – that walk-their-talk in your classrooms? Are there any in there that you might disagree with? Why / Why not?

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GREAT Teachers (for Cas) 02

The second of my “listicles” is more focused on the classroom (I’m not that sure if that term is growing on me or not)!

Before you read mine…What would your own Top 10 List include?

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Questions (Joseph O Connor quote) Ver 03

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The 10 Things That GREAT TEACHers “DO” in the Classroom

  1. Determine the learning status of students and then become leaders to guide their learning.
  2. Manage their classes through good relationships.
  3. Deviate from their lesson-plan to enable students to gain quick learning-wins.
  4. Provide learners with scaffolds to work out their own answers.
  5. To achieve productive silence in a class, they ask questions. To achieve productive noise give students an activity to do.
  6. Use at least 5 teaching methods.
  7. Never give answers to questions. Rather provide students with scaffolds to enable them to work out their own answers.
  8. Ensure learners are acknowledged and feel clever.
  9. Ensure students master logical, critical, creative and big picture thinking skills.
  10. Encourage learning risk takers to speak their minds.

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How many were similar to your own listicle?

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GREAT Teachers (for Cas) 03

List 03now, this is one of my favourites.

None of us are “perfect”…we all have room to grow. But, GREAT TEACHers often take their DNA…and turn it into an “art form”:

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The Top 10 Things that GREAT TEACHers “do” to Improve

  1. Discuss their teaching with colleagues.
  2. Learn from any source to improve their teaching.
  3. Appreciate positive and negative critique on their teaching.
  4. Do not take critique personally.
  5. Keep on looking for better ways to engage students in more creative and challenging learning.
  6. Open to advice.
  7. Willingness to change.
  8. Remind themselves that they should not be the main source of information during lessons.
  9. Keep on looking for ways students can discover and create their own answers.
  10. Keep abreast by reading about teaching.

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Now, here’s a thunk or 2 (again, to “steal”…sorry, to be “inspired”…from Tony)!

How many of you work in schools that give you the “space” to do these things? Schools that create the conditions for “DNA mutation and adaptation” to take place – through LEARNing conversations between LEARNing teachers

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GREAT Teachers (for Cas) 04 (with cover)

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Cas Olivier   –   www.LearningDesigns.co.za   –   casper@mweb.co.za 

1 Question…EVERY TEACHer Needs to Answer…

In ELT and ELL, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training, Uncategorized on 07/06/2013 at 6:36 pm

BEFORE they go into their next classroom:

TEACHing (Harry Potter style)

Are there any other questions EVERY TEACHer needs to “thunk” about…and ANSWER?

I do luv “me TECH”…BUT…!

In Classroom Teaching, Technology, Uncategorized on 18/09/2012 at 1:04 pm

I do…those of you that know me (in the “real” and digi-worlds both) know this, too.

…I mean what is there not to luv?

…except that dogs are not quite there, yet! Sorry. Dexter…

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I mean…all that great hardware, all that great software, all that great webware…that allows me to do so much “social LEARNing” (my wife tells me it’s quite “anti-social”…what does she know…she doesn’t even have a Facebook account)!

OK, OK…I know that I have said (in the past) that I hate the phrase:

…and, always maintain that:

…but there is so much “stuff” to LEARN out there!

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The thing is…I’m an “education-guy” (and a bit of a Star Wars fan)…and do, from time to time, thunk is terms of alternativesabsolutes (I’m human, too).

Absolutes like…

Heck…if I was really honest (not that I am NOT usually honest…) I do not really like the phrase 21C LEARNingat all!

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I guess, in my heart-of-hearts, I have always believed:

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and…

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…in EDUcation!

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This is probably because – again, in my heart of hearts, I recognise…and believe:

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Like most sensible TEACHers, I know:

…and, that it is the QUESTIONS we ask in the classroom…that make the difference – in addition to how often we hang this sign outside our door:

…and, no, I do not care what “discipline” we all work within…

I do not like going to conferences packed full with digital cheerleaderscheerleaders that “beat up” on TEACHers for not using the latest “app”…or, worse to my mind, decide to read a blog and tell the world that this

…is what a 21C TEACHer “looks like”!

Nor do I enjoy people going on…and onand on…about TECHnology replacing TEACHers.

…but, then again, I get that it may be easier to “replace” some TEACHers than others…if we do not wake up and smell the ink from the 3D printer (and Guy Claxton’s books)!

Yes, the hardware…the software…the webware are HERE – we gotta get used to them…we gotta get using them (do you really want to see a doctor that is not using an iPad- these days)!

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I think the problem isand the Sith inside me is talking again…a lot of the time it’s about the questions we choose to ask:

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…asking the “wrong” questions (more often than not) leads to the “wrong” decisions – and many of the challenges we face in EDUcation. For example, not asking the right questions can lead to problems with the “balance” of LEARNing and TEACHing we do:

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…without even getting to TECHnology!

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After allnot all TEACHers are created “equally”:

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TECHnology can (and does)…complicate these things:

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You see…it’s those bloody “questions” again:

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Maybe, just maybe…if we did some:

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…and asked some other questions (not just about “NEW” stuff) – questions like:

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Then, maybe…just maybe…we might start to get some:

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…to go with our:

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…for our:

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NOW…I am really starting to “hate” that “21C” phrase…

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Educational Literacy…for the 21st Century

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools, Our Universities, Teacher Training, Uncategorized on 19/01/2012 at 2:53 pm

So, there I am in Cambridge…and I can’t get to sleep. What to do?

Blog! 

Well, actually it’s more like “draft-blog” because I realise I do not have my “image portfolio” with me – a “naked post” I cannot do!

I’m back home (for 6 hours) and can now “dress” this post…

When I first started blogging, I came across a great little bit of advice: 

Thinking back over my last few posts (all written for teacher trainers…or those thinking of taking the leap), I was quite pleased to see how many people “felt” me.

An issue is, however, that right now my inbox overfloweth – and because blogging is also about the “social” so I thought I’d reply to a couple of questions that these posts seem to have raised:

1. Yes, I did “make up” (though I do prefer the lexical items ”co-create” or “coin”) the phrase Educational Literacy (EdL)…

2. No, there is no “research” to back up my “claims” (not that I thought I was making any, really)…

3. Yes, the “ideas” in a number of the posts are “different” – please see no. 1 above (I am “making this up” as I “blog along”…and I kinda like seeing how things “evolve”)!

But, come on…I did come up with a definition:

And, I took the time to come up with a neat 3-point “sound bite” to make it look “sexy“!

In a nutshell, the whole idea of Educational Literacy, at least for me, just makes “sense”and besides, all the “lists” I kept adding to were just getting too long.

For me, being a teacher is one of the best ways to “serve” othersserve the community, serve the future and, well, be “useful”. However, one cannot be useful as a teacher if you do not know your “stuff” – this is where Disciplinary Literacy comes in.

For example, we wouldn’t send someone into a maths class, if they could not add up, would we? In ELL contexts, it’s the same – but, we also have to remember:

Pedagogic Literacy is also kinda important – just as we we would not sign up a bunch of researchers for an academic project (if they had not been “trained” in allthingsresearch), we would not send a PhD into a classroom full of undergraduates if they didn’t have a clue about “teaching” – would we?

OK – bad example!

All “teachers” need to also know stuff about teaching – they need to be able to “do” stuff with what they know about teaching – and, I may be pushing it here, they need to be able to get better at what they do with the stuff they know.

Do you feel me?


 The problem is, of course, that:

…and, as such, Learning Literacy  is perhaps a more critical literacy (and fluency) than that of the pedagogic variety.

LEARNing is about so much more “stuff” than just “being taught”:

…but, perhaps more than this, what is critical is that a teacher recognises that LEARNing has to take “centre” stage in any consideration of TEACHing Literacy – after all:

…and, I’m guessing you can all “add” a few things to this “list”!

Then, of course, there are the Literacies of Curriculum and Assessment. Why the hell we think that a teacher can be “effective” without knowing a lot of stuff about these (and, more importantly, being able to “do” even more stuff with this ability set) – is beyond me.

However, we still have a very large number of “teacher education programmes” that do little more than scratch the surface of the “knowledge” required in these key areas. And, when they do, it is mostly the declarative variety that is “delivered” to our “teachers-in-training” – through “lectures” or information that is simply “dumped” on webpages.

Effective teachers are highly “literate” in all these components of EdLeven if they do not fully recognise it themselves. Some are “naturals” – but there are many others who have worked (very) hard to make explicit all that makes them “tick”.

I’ve often thought that this kinda begs the $1,000,000 question:

Ne se!

These teachers are characterised by what could be best be described (I think Carl Rogers may have said this) as “self-doubt” – but self-doubt partnered with a large helping of “reflective savvy“:

Savvy that comes from the powerful combination of:

These “human” literacies are critical to effective teaching (LEARNing and training, too):

…indeed, we could probably argue that these literacies are required by every “thinking doer” in every single “caring profession” (and maybe even a few of the not-so-caring variety)!

OK – that’s probably as many literacies as we can all manage!

But, hang on – those truly effective teachers (like those in Hollywood movies – when Hollywood decides we need a bit of educational inspiration) are not only “literate” – they are truly “fluent” in these Literacies. They “do” their “stuff” without thinking – bit like driving a car…

Common-sense really…

Wait a minute, Tony! What does all this have to do with the 21st Century – and where’s all the stuff about EdTech Literacies (and Fluencies)?

Ahhhhhh, that’s for another post!

Looking (further) back to (really) see the FUTURE!

In News & Updates (from the CBO), Our Schools, Our Universities, Uncategorized on 29/12/2011 at 12:31 pm

This morning I took a look at the Educational Predictions for 2060 from Sal Khan (he of “Academy” fame) – like many of us at this time of the year he is looking “back” and peeking “ahead”…and a 50-year “window” gives him a lot of scope!

Now, I like Sal, I do…I agree that he has done a great deal to get people thinking about “flipping” lecture theatres and universities (still not sure I like that buzz word-type phrase but more people should listen)!

In his YouTube vid, he tells us that by this time (2060, that is):

…active, discovery-based exploration and student creation will have replaced the “passive classroom model” 

…”seat and time-based credentials” will be a thing of the past and we will have shifted to an “achievement-based model” 

…employers will not care about “GPA” and focus instead on what learners have “done” 

…all teachers will have become “mentors” or “coaches” (will the word “lecturer” have been removed from the dictionary, acaba) 

…teachers will no longer “work alone” but work as “collaborative teams” – and use practices that promote recognition and greater prestige across the profession 

…falling hardware and internet costs will mean we have literacy levels approaching 99%

All of these would indeed be “great” (especially that last one…and the one just before that, too). The problem is that, on the whole, haven’t we been saying these things for YEARS?

 

Over the year (in this blog), I have done a few of these “futurist” posts and I have been guilty of doing  the exact same thing that Sal is doing (though not on YouTube). For example, I did a post on “what’s IN – what’s OUT” in education (and ELT) – and said a few things:

On CLASSROOM PRACTICE:

On ASSESSMENT (for LEARNing):

On (real) LEADERSHIP in education:

On PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT:

On INNOVATION and EFFECTIVENESS:

The problem is, in chatting to a few co-bloggers (especially here in Turkey) these past few days, many of these things just ain’t “true” – they ain’t happened this year, again!

I think we all recognise that many of these things are happening – but far too slowly and often only in places far far away! We read about these great initiatives, those wonderful projects and the amazing successes that many schools, colleges and universities are creating…but that often just “depresses” (especially around this time of year) us and disheartens us about our own “lot”!

 

But, wait…we can’t finish the year on that notewe are teachers and teachers are not quitters!

What Sal Khan is doing is a bit of “dreaming” – like others before him. Nothing wrong with that – dreaming keeps us all going!

Yes, we can say that we have heard all this before – especially if we look further back than the “YouTube epoch”.

OK…maybe we drop into the “internet library” rather than the bricks-and-mortar variety – but what Henri Amca was telling us is that it is what we “do” with what we “know” (and LEARN) that is important.

He said this in 1852!

 

Gifford Pinchot (who the bloody hell is that, I hear you say) built on what Henri Amca told us:

Pinchot, when he wasn’t saving forests, knew the power of moral imperatives and responsibility – and that change takes time!

 

Yes, we have a great many “highly-educated idiots” in our governments and ministries, we have a lot of “my-way-or-the-highway” leaders in our schools and colleges – and we may even have a few colleagues and learners that just do not “get” it, yet.

But here’s the deal – getting the New Year “blues” or playing the “blame-game” are not going to get us any further than we got this year – LEARNing, doing something with what we LEARN and taking responsibility for LEARNing others will!

Sal was right with one thing; the future (and 2012) will be about “creation”the creation of a preferred future in education. We know what that future “looks” like – and we have another year to help make it happen!

Besides, if WE give up…who else will do it?

 

Happy NEW YEAR – and remember KEEP UP THE GOOD FIGHT!

Stop Talking…Start DOING!

In Book Reviews, Guest BLOGGERS, Our Schools, Our Universities, Uncategorized on 19/12/2011 at 11:24 am

Sticky TEACHing and LEARNing

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In November I started a “series” based on the work of those lovely chaps at the 21st Century Fluency ProjectLee CrockettIan Jukes and Andrew Churches very kindly gave me permission to use their new book Literacy is NOT Enough to create a number of “guest-posts” (now, if we could only get more writers to don their “creative commons” hats)!

To date, I have done five posts:

#1 – Can a committee write a poem? 

#2 – Why we need more “Committed Sardines”…

#3 – From Literacy to Fluency – 21st Century Fluencies, that is…

#4 – Getting FLUENT with the 5 FLUENCIES… 

#5 – How to make LEARNing “stick”

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I was planning to complete the series in six posts – with the last one highlighting the type of lessons teachers can develop to really “breathe life” into the “Fluencies”. Best laid plans and all of that!

However, I had to edit down Post #5 – and missed a very important bit of commentary from Andrew, Lee and Ian…

So, here is Part 6 – or perhaps Part 5b…… 

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A study that was conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation in Michigan back in 1998 clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of cultivating higher-level thinking as well as measurable learning and retention. In the study, two groups of 100 social studies students were taught the same information by two different methods. One group was taught in the traditional way that’s all too familiar to us: full-frontal lecturing with students sitting in rows. They poured over worksheets and were hammered with drills, drills, and more drills, and traditional tests and quizzes.

Weapons of Mass Instruction

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The second group learned primarily through problem- and process-based approaches.

This group of students worked both individually and in groups. They benefited from self-assessment, peer assessment, and teacher assessment. They focused on creating real-world products to solve real-world problems.

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At the end of the year, both groups were tested, using the same traditional state-mandated exams for social studies. The results were stunning, and most likely not what you would expect.

The scores were nearly identical for both groups, regardless of how they learned. You might be confused now as to the point of this. Perhaps you’re thinking this indicates that there is no point in investing in technology or new instructional and assessment methods.

Apparently the old approach still works just as well as ever.

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You’d be wrong. One year later, unwarned and therefore unprepared, the students were given the very same test that the previous year they had passed with both groups performing equally well.

The results were astonishing!

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The group that was taught using traditional methods was able to recall only about 15 percent of the content. To make matters worse, an analysis of the results and the students’ thinking indicated that they viewed social studies as a series of itemized facts—this happened on this date, this happened on that date, and one event did not influence another in any way.

Theirs is an excellent example of lower-order thinking.

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The group that was taught using problem- and process-based learning approaches recalled more than 70 percent of the content. More important, they demonstrated a deep understanding of the integrated nature of their learning. In other words, they not only remembered the content but also understood its significance. They were able to make abstract connections between events. Effective learners make attachments or connections between their existing knowledge and new information.

This is Velcro learning! This is higher-order thinking. These are the goals we have for our students, and we need to make this shift in the instructional approach to give them the opportunity to develop the skills we know they need.

They are limited not by their abilities, but by our lack of flexibility in making the shift.

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Even though this research has been around for decades, many educators continue to depend completely on the “stand and deliver; sit and learn” full-frontal lecture method. If we were to be really honest with ourselves, we know intuitively that this isn’t working.

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Teachers are good people who are committed to their students and want to do what’s best for them. Yet what they’re doing isn’t working. They know this, but they continue to do it. Why? There is an unprecedented pressure on educators today. As our students are failing, fingers are being pointed at teachers. In many cases, teachers’ salaries and employment are being tied to student performance.

Governments are demanding that more information be taught than there are hours available in the student’s career. At the same time, millions of dollars are being slashed from budgets. In the panic to meet the mandates, teachers are attempting to cram as much information into students’ heads as possible. Many students are seeing education as a 16-year process of slowly and painfully memorizing facts that can be Googled in seconds. The result is that they are tuning out and leaving school in unprecedented numbers—in some cases more than 50 percent of students. As we discussed earlier, this is happening not just in high schools but also in universities.

It’s time to shift the instructional approach away from talking as teaching to problem- and process-based learning. In the 21st-century classroom, we must move the responsibility for learning from the teacher, where it traditionally has been, to the student, where it should be. Students must become active participants in their education. The teacher becomes the facilitator of learning, posing real-world problems that have relevance to the learners and guiding them through the process of creating a real-world solution. It’s up to the students to decide how best to communicate their understanding. The learning is not scripted, and it doesn’t limit students—they have the opportunity to explore, to communicate, and to create.

While it is not an easy shift, it is very rewarding – for both teachers and students.

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As the 21st-century learning environment revolves around real-world problems, teachers must transition to be crafters of these problems. A well-written scenario that connects real-world relevance to the learner, cultivates the 21st-century fluencies, and addresses curricular objectives sounds like a lot to ask for.

Road to Truth (Buddha quote) Ver 02

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Like any skill, it takes time to develop. It also takes a willingness to make mistakes – that is what debriefing is all about – and finding a way to do it better next time.

In the next chapter, we walk you through the process of developing scenarios. We also provide samples and templates of the unit plans we have created for our 21st Century Fluency Kits. This next chapter is the real meat of this book, so let’s get at it and have some fun transforming your classroom into a 21st-century learning environment.

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This guest-post is adapted from Chapter 10 of Ian, Andrew and Lee’s new book Literacy is NOT Enough

The POWER of a QUESTIONING CULTURE…

In Educational Leadership, Our Schools, Our Universities, Uncategorized on 14/11/2011 at 8:01 pm

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Ask yourself a question – what is at the heart of almost everything we think, feel and do as a species?

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QUESTIONS! 

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Be they closed- or open-ended, questions drive how human beings listen, think and behave…And, I’m not just talking about matters of life, the universe and everything – you know, the questions our kids ask us (*):

  • Why do baked beans give us gas?
  • Why do people shrink when they get really old?
  • Why do men have nipples (if they can’t have babies)?

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We know (don’t we?) that questions are the secret to more effective student LEARNing (esp. when these questions come from our kids and students). We know (don’t we?) that questions can help teachers do a better job of supporting student (and their own) LEARNing. We know (don’t we?) that questions can help improve team, departmental and institutional performance levels

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So, why is it that we ask so few questions – and even fewer questions that really “matter”? And, when many of us do ask questions – why is it that so many of them are just so God-damn awful?

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Over the years, I have had the priviledge of working for a number of larger (and smaller) educational institutions and also been a consultant for others.

Some of these could be described as “effective”, some others…not so much!

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What I have noticed in the “less effective organisations” is a series of “patterns” vis-a-vis the questions people in the institutions ask (or do not ask):

  • Many of those at the “lower-levels” of these insistutions do NOT ask many questions at all (esp. of those at the “top”) – it’s almost as if they have been “conditioned” not to ask questions and “trained” to assume that it’s OK to “bitch” and “moan” when things do not go well (a lot more when the “bosses” are not around).
  • Many of those in the “middle” ask questions – but questions that often seem to have been “crafted” by UN diplomats or “engineered” to make those at the top look “wiser” or “smarter” than they actually are. Mostly, however, the questions asked by this group are about getting “permission” – or making sure those at the top “sign off” on ideas that might be a bit “risky” (this forms part of a much more complex matrix of “CYA strategies”).
  • Those at the “top” ask the most questions – but many of these questions are about “What’s new?” or “How can we (be seen to) be different?” (for example). Other questions seem focussed on “bitching” and “moaning”, too – or, more specifically, seem to come from a place that is all about “pointing fingers” and “assigning blame”.

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I refer to organisations and institutions that exhibit all three patterns (together) as “dinosaurs that just do not know they are already extinct” – and if we knew how many of them really exist out there (in education), we’d not get a lot of sleep at night!

Extinct…because the world has changed…and it’s continuing to change faster than ever.

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These ineffective and dinosaur-like institutions just don’t seem to “get” this (I was going to say something about “brains the size of peas” – but you’ve all read Darwin, yes?).

It seems as if many of them are “scared” of embracing the “energy” that real, powerful questions could bring them – and prefer to opt for “improvement initiatives” that are, in practice, little more than re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic

So, what is it that inhibits the “evolution” of these institutions or prevents them from carrying out the type of “adaptive imagineering” that is required?

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In a word…

Sadly, organisational cultures that “live” in the pastcultures that thrive on the “prestige” of the past…and are dominated by out-dated notions of respect, deference and tradition.

This is why – IMHO – we see the three “patterns” I noted earlier!

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Don’t get me wrong!

I’m not some kind of “whacko-educational-bolshevic” (OK – maybe just a bit)! It just seems so “dumb” to try to protect a “status quo” at the expense of what really matters – but, then again, maybe it’s just people protecting their own “status” that is the real problem.

For me, respect (prestige, too – even though there is nothing “real” about it) is something that has to be earned (and re-earned every day). It is earned best by thinking-doers who prioritise “service to others”, especially during challenging times – not those that demand that they “be served” by others (and egos “fed” with a healthy diet of flattery and hot air).

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OK – went a wee bit off track there! 

The bottom line is that…the original dinosaurs were not very good at QUESTIONING, either!

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Those of you that pick up allthingslearning on a regular basis from your newsagent (I must admit I do miss one or two “pre-historic traditions”) will also know that we try to use a “questioning insight” on a pretty regular basis…

We have tried to bring all these together as:

And, also looked at how these align with: 

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Come on…we’ve even touched on: 

 

However, in matters of “culture”we keep coming back to many of the same points. One of these is:

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It is for this reason that we have suggested a wide range of: 

And,

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The problem is that questions like these are only useful if an institution has  a questioning culture.

“Effective” institutions do, “ineffective” ones do not…

And, instıtutions that have a questioning culture usually havequestioning leaders” that know how to ask the right questions and encourage others to do the same.

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“Effective” institutions do this, “ineffective” ones do NOT…

The original dinosaurs didn’t get the “memo” from Deming.

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I wonder how many of today’s dinosaurs might “wake up” before it is too late – and then, how many of them would decide to do something about their questions…or just look for someone else to blame!

This might need a post-script!

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(*) If you are really interested in finding the “answers” to these questions, check out Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg’s book Why do men have nipples? – Hundreds of Questions You’d Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini (Three Rivers Press, 2005). I chose these three because my big, little girl did, over her “7 ages”, actually asked me these (but Mark and Billy had not published the book at that time).

I have it now…and, I’m gonna be an awesome grandpa one day!

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Can a committee write a poem?

In Educational Leadership, Our Schools, Uncategorized on 02/10/2011 at 8:12 am

John West-Burnham asks this thought-provoking question in his book “Rethinking Educational Leadership”.

Think about it…it is a question that touches on a great many issues in the arena of allthingslearning; creativity, change, and collaboration.

As you think, take a read of this poem – a poem that captures the hopes and dreams of many educators around the globe:

 

What is a Teacher?

What is a teacher?

A guide, not a guard.

What is learning?

A journey, not a destination.

What is discovery?

Questioning the answers, not answering the questions.

What is the process?

Discovering ideas, not covering content.

What is the goal?

Open minds, not closed issues.

What is the test?

Being and becoming, not remembering and reviewing.

What is learning?

Not just doing things differently, but doing different things.

What is teaching?

Not showing them what to learn, but showing them how to learn

What is school?

Whatever we choose to make it.

 

West-Burnham points out that committees can, in fact, write poems – this took me by surprise (as I had immediately jumped in with both feet and said “no way”)!

His rationale is this – just the mere fact that a committee is given a learning opportunity like this can be the “seed” that grows into an “oak”. Moving through the process, asking the right questions (at the right time) and being able to call on “teachers” of their own choosing – might just be enough, or the start of something different.

Simply creating time, space and opportunity to consider allthingslearning and allthingseducation by a “committee” might allow us to consider whether we are asking the right questions.

 

My thanks to Lee Crockett, Ian Jukes and Andrew Churches for permission to post the poem. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing extracts from their new book – Literacy Is Not Enough (2011) – as a series of guest-posts.

A “word” from our CBO…

In News & Updates (from the CBO), Uncategorized on 03/09/2011 at 12:55 pm

Those lovely chaps at WordPress told me this week that I had reached my 100th posting! You have to love a company that call its customer care staff“happiness engineers” – and learns you stuff (even when you are not looking to do so)!

I decided to try and run a word count – you know, how many words have I used in these 100 posts.

I gave up!

 

I tried – I really did…but on discovering that I have used 9,953 words (not including “image” shots) for just the posts from this week – I stopped!

How does he do ityou might ask!

Well, you might not….but I’ll tell you anyways!

  • 1. It’s fun!
  • 2. I learn a lot!
  • 3. Learning is good – but sharing is better!

 

There are lots of other people out there that can come up with more reasons than I.

There are also those that can tell you why blogging is good for students / learners, too…

But, I like my three!

 

This was not really why I started this post (#103 – and another 222 words) – that was really…to say “thank you“!

  • To those of you that read the blog – and comment or get me the odd e-mail!
  • To the Happiness Engineers at WordPress – for helping out so much!
  • To those of you thinking about setting up a blog – go on, give it a go!

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