Mirandamod – on physical and virtual learning spaces

This was an event that happened at Bedford University last week (Thurs, 3rd May) but I have only just got round to blogging about it.

 The event was based on the following quote:
“One of the greatest changes can be seen in the lives of children and young people, who are at ease with the world of technology and who communicate, socialise and participate online effortlessly….. Yet the classrooms of today don’t reflect these changes.” Michael Gove 2011

and looked to discuss the ideas around how learning currently takes place and possible ways forward.

 The evening was arranged into a series of short talks over the space of two hours, followed by a discussion with a mindmeister map running alongside electronically and although the evening was advertised as an unconference it felt a little too formal (plus a few presenters were trying to subtly sell their products). Nevertheless, some interesting points were raised so I thought I would share some thoughts.
The evening kicked off with Chris Yapp discussing the use of tech in time and place to add pedagogical value. It is now possible to learn 24 hours a day using technology but how do we harness the potential of the tech and physical spaces to their maximum?
Can now learn synchronously or synchronously:

same time – different places, 
same place – different time, 
different place – different time, 
same time – same place.

 The NotSchool http://www.notschool.net/ use an interesting model where the chn choose their own curriculum and time for attending. Resources are available to access any time.

What are the educational purposes?
Shared experience, access to scarce or remote resources, cultural understanding, visit preparation, community links, family learning, learner support, flexible learning etc.

An example: Science museum in California show an experiment live every day. This actually led to an increase in visitors to the museum as children had watched at school and been inspired to want to visit.

Think – what are the learning purposes and resources you need and then mix virtual and real.  The challenge is now getting this balance right within schools.

 Next up Marilyn Leask share why she thought academics should join online communities by starting off with the question:

How much could we know? She wanted to bring together knowledge about education and discussed how medics had set up something called the Cochran collaboration where medics from 80 countries work together online to assess medial cases.

 Clearly, she doesn’t know much about the fabulous education network on twitter. She shared www.educationcommunities.org as a way to collaborate and share with other teachers from around the world.
 Someone (I didn’t catch his name) then got up to talk about sound in the classroom. He suggested that multitasking was not a great way to learn something and that we must ensure speaking and listening takes a much bigger chunk of learning – dialogic teaching – children need to talk to get their thoughts in order before they can write logically and they need to hear intelligible talk.

He then went on to talk about noise in the classroom and how classrooms are well lit (he needs to visit the classrooms I’ve been in!) but that listening was not addressed in the same way. Apparently sound does not project well beyond  2 metres and therefore it takes more energy to listen. He then promoted some sort of speaker system. I think he was trying to sell it.

 The selling thing seemed to pop up in a couple of other talks as well; notably – buy our coding software; we’ve been told it’s better than scratch and Kodu. And buy our mobile learning environment.This totally turned me off these presentations and was a bit disappointing.

There were several other talks but I did not note them down in detail. The main gist of the evening seemed to be moving the emphasis onto the learner  and the shift towards independent learning with the teacher becoming more of a facilitator,monitoring students, ensuring engagement, developing community building, ensuring constructive criticism, not just put downs.

 It was emphasised that a facilitator makes children do most of the work, not the teacher. I would love to know how to really do this as I don’t really feel I’ve reached this point.

A bit was said about games and how they engage and that children develop key skills and thinking skills in games making. Communicating, audience and purpose are important.
Play is learning.  I have already had great success with this using MarioKart and African Safari on the Wii in class; I would love to develop the use of games even more because I have to agree; they do inspire some of the most reluctant children to join in.

 Another talk was about the flat classroom project. (This does not mean having an open-plan classroom.) This is about metaphorically knocking down classroom walls and allowing young people to collaborate on projects across the world through the use of technology. I think this is an interesting concept and being done on the small scale by many schools already but perhaps this project wants us to think bigger and I think many schools would struggle having the technology to support that. Think quest – more structured, but similar.
 Lyon Cych talked about the use of social media in schools, something that is often shied away from, especially at primary level for many reasons. He introduced us to socialmediainschools.org.uk and we watched part of a very interesting video by Danah Boyd called Culture of Fear; it is worth checking out. On the same note, Matt Pearson also did a very entertaining talk on the use of twitter. Although there was a twitter stream on the wall I’m not sure many people in the room were using it or even aware of it’s potential.

It was an interesting night but I was too tired for the discussion at the end; I’m sure lots of useful things came from it.

 There is a full livestream recording of the event here: http://www.mirandanet.ac.uk/mirandamods/2011-2012/the-future-of-learning-series-3/
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