Saturday, July 28, 2012

Psychomtric testing and the myth of personality types

personalityOver the last 3 years I have become a podcast enthusiast (some may even say, bore!). I love the fact that I can be driving, running, name it, while learning or being entertained...and often both. One of my favourite podcasts is from the BBC World Service Documentaries, and recently, I listened to a particularly good 2-part podcast that looked into psychometric testing.

I was very familiar with the concepts and with some of the most popular tests, including the Myers Briggs, which is the main one discussed in this podcast. (You can also read the BBC article here.)

Much of what covered in the documentary reinforced some uneasy feelings I have always had about these types of test. Many tests appear clumsy, where there are 'either/or' decisions to be made without any context, and where you might actually see both answers as relevant to you. They tend to be really long, and can be pretty tedious. Furthermore, if they are being used as part of a recruitment process, they can be 'played'. A person I know very well went for a high powered sales job a couple of years back. He decided almost immediately that he didn't want the job, so had some fun with the psychometric test. He answered all of the questions, as he said "as if I were a sociopath". He was called back for a second interview because the company felt he had the drive and the personality they were looking for!!!

There is also the uneasy notion that, while there is a human need to belong and psychometric testing offers a way of being part of a group ("I'm a..., what are you?"), the 'result' also labels us (a point that is explored in the documentary). And, a really scary thing for me was, these tests are being used with high school students. Once a student has a label or box in which to place themselves, who is to say that this won't limit what and how they explore the world going forward - again, eloquently discussed in the documentary. See what you think...the podcasts did little to allay my fears, and much to reinforce my uneasiness as psychometric tests gain in popularity in all walks of life.

How do people from different companies use psychological assessments in the workplace? podcast part 1:

Lucy Ash asks if personality tests are a journey of discovery.: podcast part 2:


Personality (Photo credit: hang_in_there)

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How are we engaging all learners? Ideas and examples

Tody's webinar (25 July 2012) was facilitated by Karen Melhuish (Enbling eLearning), and focussed on ways that we are engaging learners. The first thing the group did was reflected on a time when participants felt there were learning effectively. Some of the ideas included:
  • context
  • challenge
  • relationships
  • confidence
  • emotions
  • meaningful

Some of the comments included "When the teacher made the content personal to me" (Brent), "When I think back it was the teachers who wanted to hear from me. They wanted to know what I thought" (Paul), and "knowing it was something that I could do and be good at" (Janelle).
These themes underpinned the rest of the session. A  videofrom featuring a learning experience at Kutere School was shared, and participants' thoughts discussed, and examples were shared. For example,

We strongly believe in just in time teaching - whether it is a writing skill, a technology skill - they want/need to know it to continue with their learning so are highly motivated and engaged with the new learning (Flexie)

Janelle Riki spoke about the relevance of the video to Maori learners, especially mana (a sense of can do), place-based education (could see themself in that context), learning from each other, and modelling watching and doing. There were also elements of being self-motivated, in particular when barriers were removed for them. Janelle has created an acronym Angitu Maori.
  • Autonomy
  • Negotiated curriculum - tailoring the curriculum
  • Get to know your kids - relationships
  • Involve whanau, iwi, hapu - the students cannot be separated from their whanau
  • Te reo Maori
  • Use, do, play, practice
  • Manaakitanga
  • Authentic contexts
  • Outside the classroom - learning doesn't necessarily happen inside the classroom
  • Regular physical activity - just having a chance to get out and run around can make all the difference to engagement
  • Incorporate group competition - a chance to flex their mana, as well as to something for their iwi, hapu, and their mates

Self-management as a concept can be an issue for some Maori students as the notion of working together underpins their world view, which includes playing a role for the betterment of everyone.
Togi Lemanu spoke next with a specific focus on engaging Pasifika learners (some amazing stories on the Pasifika site on TKI He started by mentioning relationships, building relationships and creating rapport. In particular it is important to know where they comes from (Tonga, Samoa...there are many countries that comprise Pacific Peoples). The third point Togi made was around the importance of knowing about each student's culture, and the final point was creating a safe environment for all of these things to happen and where the student can explore. Once the students feel safe "that's when good things happen".  It was emphasised that "schools need to go beyond the assessment process and summative data", and to include "Pacific perspectives in the curriculum", which provide a wide range of opportunities.

Brent asked what the keys are "to overcoming students who have poor attendance?".  There were a range of replies, in particular the link between truancy and engagement. The Year 10 and 11 space appears to be the major time, and main reasons are engagement, as well as, sometimes, staying at home to look after younger sibilings. Brent followed up with the observation that it is "hard to gain momentum/engagement when attendance is poor..... thanks for your ideas". Sam asked if not being at school was the equivalent of not being engaged....!

Sam Cunnane facilitated next, and he introduced the Passionfruit project (see the video here). With a class of 20, the students collaborated together to create a magazine, and much of the project involved "handing over control to the students".

This was a really useful session with a good range of practical suggestions, as well of examples of what people are actually doing, and how it's working for them. Unfortunately the recording of the session was not successful, but the conversation will continue in a range of spaces. You can access the presentation here.

Many thanks to everyone who participated, including a group of 20 teacher's at Brent's school. And particular thanks to the facilitators, Karen, Janelle, Togi, and Sam.


A confession, a smartphone, and Māori Language Week

English: Samsung GalaxyA confession...about a year ago I bought a smartphone (Samsung Galaxy), and I have found it really useful. I must admit, until the point where I had my very own smartphone...and for probably the first couple of weeks while I shifted my mindset, I couldn't see what all the fuss was - especially for enhancing learning opportunities.

One of those folk who bleated on about the screen being too small for anything useful, and "you can't type anything of any meaningful length" (I blush), I have now experienced some of the neat complementary aspects that a smartphone can add to my old workhorse laptop, especially as most of my life is in the cloud now.

One of the neat things, of course, are the apps. And, one I trialled yesterday had me instantly engaged and I could see how it would come in useful in my professional, as well as personal life. The Hika Lite app (launched during Māori Language Week in NZ), has a range of common expressions categorised under every-day interactions such as greetings.

Carolyn Bennett, who shared the app with a community I'm a member of wrote:

Morēna koutou - Hika was conceived by Sophie Tauwehe Tamati as an attempt to revitalise te reo Māori through a fresh approach to learning. By using modern technologies, audio, visual and kinesthetic functions, Hika makes learning and communicating in te reo Māori easy and fun.

This wonderful app for iphones and Androids can be downloaded free to celebrate Māori Language Week (Whakanuia Te Wiki o te Reo Māori). Highly recommended.

Nga mihi nui

Samsung Galaxy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Change at the speed, who has got it right?

There is, perhaps, a perception that change is happening at great speed. However, some of the big institutions (e.g. education, health) appear to be positively glacial with the rate they are responding to change, and what is more, there seems to be quite a bit of opposition to such change. This was brought home in a post shared by Leigh Hynes, who poses the question Well, so who has got it right, and writes "Sharing this blog by Greg Stack on Mindshift with you, not only for the blog but all the comments back. What do you think?" (source).

The Greg's post and the comments that followed certainly made for an Interesting discussion. I finished reading the blog post thinking that I agreed with many of the points he had made, and then I read the comments and felt quite taken aback.
A few things jumped out for me from the comments. The first is, those educators who have been involved in innovative practice and design (including in the Dewey era and regardless of current technologies) appear to relish the differences it has made - see for example David B's comments "We have commons areas that are used for small group, large-group, and individual learning spaces outside of classrooms that have glass for walls to eliminate that boxed-in feeling, and contribute to a collaborative environment. Now if only we could tear down all of our school buildings and start over with this concept in mind".

The second thing that jumped to mind was the socioeconomic concern. Although very much valid in itself, I wonder if sometimes it is used as a 'barrier' to change. For example, the Pt England School in Auckland is a Decile 1a school. However, working with the community and by thinking outside the envelope, they have a 1 to one laptop scheme and a wireless network that is accessible by the local community (i.e. not just at the school!), I am guessing that coverage is limited - sometimes when I cycle to the end of my road I see the kids in the house across the way sitting on the verge with their laptops so that they can get a signal!!

Finally, the whole thing about computer labs...often outmoded, outdated, dark, crowded, badly-designed uncomfortable spaces with no flexibility and limited access because one subject has booked them out for the entire year!! Yes, there are sometimes specialist software that needs to run on a grunty computer...but that is a requirement often met by a couple of well-spec-ed desktops. Bring your own, a scheme of loaning (with an option to purchase after a period of time), or COWs / equivalent mobile option has to be the way to go. The savings in the dead space, and the opening up of options for flexible learning for more teachers (and I could go on, but I won't!!) is a no brainer.

Interestingly, having worked in a place where all the labs were removed (except for a couple of specialized CAD / film labs) and a 1 to 1 laptop initiative put in place I was amazed at how, even though it was an institution designed on traditional lines, many more spaces became learning spaces. Corridors, the cafeteria, the common room, outside all saw groups of students meeting and collaborating, or individual students working away. This was something I hadn't expected.

So - in answer to Leigh's question - in an ideal world school would not be seen as the only 'place' for learning - after all, it will be tricky to design spaces that will suit the way that so many different folk will want to learn. Opening up the notion of learning happening anywhere anytime, with access to teachers (and not just school 'teachers', folk from the community who have things to share and teach) and peers in various ways, could in turn reduce the time students are physically at school...or at least in a 'classroom'. So design becomes less of a central issue, because learners have the flexibility to choose the place they learn, they aren't forced to sit in rows or at tables for hours.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sharing openly on the Internet: The solution or the problem?

Michael Winter shared the link to this video, writing, succinctly, "I think this is important".

I felt it was a powerful protest against many of the laws, legislations and policies that are being put together, including SOPA and ACTA - and yes, you can argue that the song's lyrics are America-focussed, and that President Obama did not support SOPA. The point is though that there are some conversations underway the world over that have serious implications for what, how and with whom we share and collaborate with over the Internet.

I was listening to something just the other day where there was a lot of head shaking and 'doom and gloom'. The suggestion is that without increasing security then cybercrime will erode business's Intellectual Property, wreck economies, and bring down countries.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I would suggest that locking things down will actually only make things worse...raises the challenge bar, while preventing the openness that may actually be the solution to the issue. What are your thoughts?


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Digital Citizenship YouTube style

Nick Billowes shared this resource (originally shared by Gerard MacManus, St Bedes College), writing "I expect that you have all seen this in other forums - interesting regarding the 'digital citizenship' thrust".

Having had a quick browse through, while there is an obvious bias to YouTube, there are some useful resources that are likely to kick off some interesting conversations with students (and parents). One of the most obvious points, of course, is that YouTube have developed this resource at all - it is a sign, I hope, that times are changing. There appears to be a growing realisation that locking things down is the equivalent of sticking your thumb in the virtual dam. YouTube has definitely set out to help raise awarness and help users of the Internet develop appropriate skills.
The description from YouTube reads:
We have devised an interactive curriculum aimed to support teachers of secondary students (approximately ages 13-17). The curriculum helps educate students on topics like:
  • YouTube’s policies
  • How to report content on YouTube
  • How to protect their privacy online
  • How to be responsible YouTube community members
  • How to be responsible digital citizens
We hope that students and educators gain useful skills and a holistic understanding about responsible digital citizenship, not only on YouTube, but in all online activity.
Below is a list of lessons, and the recommended flow for delivery. Lessons are designed to fit within 50 minute classes, but can be adapted to fit your schedule:
  1. What Makes YouTube Unique - basic facts and figures (40 minutes)
  2. Detecting Lies - (35 minutes)
  3. Safety Mode - (5 minutes)
  4. Online Reputation and Cyberbullying - (45 minutes)
  5. Policy - The Community Guidelines (30 minutes)
  6. Reporting content - Flagging (20 minutes)
  7. Privacy part 1 - (40 minutes)
  8. Privacy part 2 - (50 minutes)
  9. Copyright - (40 mins)
  10. Additional resources/Appendix including parent resources
You can download the full Teacher’s Guide here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Should we be aiming for our Learning Management Systems to be 'next gen'?

I've just finished reading a blog post by
Well, I'm starting to think that most LMSs are simply not very good social learning environments. They're not even middling. They're great at administrative tasks. Most are ok to good on content management. But despite course pages, discussion forums,Jowikis and glossaries, they are just not great social environments, requiring too many hoops to jump through to create a convenient, natural, social learning experience that fits in with our information consuming, active, diverse and increasingly mobile lives.
Joyce suggests that LMSs are great for administrative tasks, and, to a certain extent, management of content. However, "LMSs should not try to emulate all of those social media, but instead become better at integrating with them" - and this requires educators to be aware of the importance of design, as well as up to speed with the many options that will make it simple for learners to collaborate and communicate.
Returning to Tom's post, he indicates that learning platforms of the future will include 6 core elements, underpinned by 4 central services (student services, teacher services, back-office services, and school services):
  1. Standards-aligned libraries of open and proprietary content with search and content management tools
  2. Social, collaborative, and productivity tools
  3. Assessment tools and achievement analytics
  4. Learner profiles and portfolios
  5. Recommendation engines smart enough to build custom playlists
  6. Assignment, matriculation, management, and motivational tools (e.g. achievement recognition systems, badges or other data visualization strategies) (source)
My question is why? With younger learners the obvious benefit is the provision of a 'walled garden', although that often has the effect of also shutting out parents and whanau who could and should play an important part in the learning experience. With students over the age of 13, what are the benefits of having an LMS with everything built in? It might indicate an attachment to a model of teacher-centred, institution 'owned', model of learning, which will only be addressed by initiatives such as Open Education Resources, along with a real understanding of learning as a social undertaking. Also, the notion that students are likely to create resources and records of their learning that they will want to take with them and access once they have left an institution (and I'm not going to jump into the conversation of who 'owns' these artefacts), often seems to be neglected by administrators.

So - do we really need a learning platform that has all the elements that Tom identifies, and, if developed, whose needs will it really be serving the best?
Elements for constructing social learning environments by jrhode

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Digital Divide: Agree or disagree?

I found this video quite thought provoking, although I'm not sure I agree with all of the major points made (especially the broad brush 'false' statements, as I think much of what was being stated is way more sophisticated than indicated here). However, well worth watching, and reading alongside the blog post The Digital Divide: Issues And Possible Solutions. Would be good to hear what you think - do you agree or disagree with the major statements made here? Are you facing issues, and what solutions do you have to address them?

The description on the site reads: "Using a compilation of outside video and photos along with original text this video addresses the social problem known as the Digital Divide. After introducing the topic, we attempt to clear up any misconceptions about the issue. We then go on to label the three pressing aspects that must be overcome in order to bridge the technology gap: access, ability, and empowerment. We illustrate how different groups are working towards a solution and encourage individual involvement."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Scoop from Edsurge: One thing every school needs to make it work - great bandwidth

Fresh off the digital 'press' from Edsurge (thanks to Betsy Corcoran and her team), is the (audacious) educationsuperhighway. The article really caught my eye as the initiative in the US seems to have several parallels with the Ultra-fast and Rural broadband initiativesin New Zealand. While there are also some big differences, there might be points that could be learned from, such as "templates...[that] show schools how to ensure that they distribute that bandwidth effectively throughout the schools, as too often connectivity shrinks at the campus threshold".
The overview from Edsurge reads:
There's one thing that every school needs to make it work: great bandwidth. Reports suggest that connections exist but too often connectivity is simply not reliable enough for teachers to count on it being available. Now serial entrepreneur, Evan Marwell, hopes to solve this problem. "My end goal is that every school has 100 Megabits per second," he declares. And yes, he's counting all 100,000 or so public schools in the U.S. To take on this audacious goal, Marwell is creating a 501c3 called EducationSuperhighway and a three-step plan. Get the full scoop here.

Image source
Faster broadband is coming - Ministry of Economic Development

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Image representing Symbaloo as depicted in Cru... There are probably times when you would like to share a set of hyperlinks. However, sometimes these can be pretty dull visually...a list..., and often the URL does not provide information about what the follower of a particular link will find or be able to do. Enter Symbaloo (which was recommended to me by John S Oliver, sometime ago, but this is the first opportunity I have had to follow up on it).

I must admit to being cautiously interested. Symbaloo is an online tool that enables you to make visual 'webmixes' that can be shared, organised, and downloaded. One example is this Digital Portfolios webmix from Marti Ingram.  Marti has put together a collection of links to content research sites, a variety of tools that could be used to develop a digital portfolio, some 'how to' support sites, and then some more general sites around digital citizenship for example. I could see how a learner might find this an accessible format with visual as well as text clues as to why they might want to access a site.

Perhaps the next step (which is maybe more exciting for me) is that learners can create and share their own Symbaloo. For example, as part of the  Technology and Education Course at CSUSM students create webmixes to meet assessment requirements (Allison - You can access a whole heap more ideas of how educators are using Symbaloo (across sectors), and I also feel that it would offer a great tool for businesses too - especially in the collation of support or 'how to' resource collections.

This is Symbaloo from Team Symbaloo on Vimeo.

Image Image via CrunchBase

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Thoughts on design: The 100,000-student classroom

There is currently no consensus on how closely... This video was shared by Peter Allen, and a few things caught my attention. The first was the use of written notes captured by a feels counter-intuitive, but they had good feedback about the sense it created a more knowledgeable friend explaining something. The second thing to jump out is that everyone was working on the same thing at the same time; again, this seems to go against notions of personalisation and differentiation, but I can see how it would lead to a 'critical mass' in the subject associated forums. And the final thing was making some of the material available for a limited time to help with motivation and work to deadlines. Hmmm.

While I really 'get' some of this, and for sure deadlines for example, can be a great motivator. But to remove the material completely seems to negate the notion of being able to review, recycle, and reflect. Also, with the handwritten notes - are there issues of accessibilty here (low vision learners for example)? And finally, everyone learning at the same time at the same pace...Peter Norvig mentioned Sal Khan as a source of knowledge, but something that Khan's research is indicating is (no surprise here) everyone learns at a different pace and in a different way.

What are your thoughts?

The description from the site reads: In the fall of 2011 Peter Norvig taught a class with Sebastian Thrun on artificial intelligence at Stanford attended by 175 students in situ -- and over 100,000 via an interactive webcast. He shares what he learned about teaching to a global classroom. Image There is currently no consensus on how closely the brain should be simulated. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)