Who would have guessed that a hybrid scenario of the Mad Hatter yelling at Alice to change seats and speed dating could create an educational format that suits contemporary adult learning so well?
How many teachers reading this have been caught in professional development that seems to be modelled on how children learn? Teachers are usually well behaved and so conditioned to the norms of school that poor practice for adult learning has become all too common. Teachers are experts in pedagogy. The ‘ped’ in pedagogy comes from the Greek word for child. Teachers have been trained at university in how children learn and their experience is in the teaching of children. Pedagogy is what they do!
Adult education, known as andragogy, is not what a K-12 teacher always does. To ensure quality professional learning, contemporary quality adult learning practices are used. The AITSL Teacher Standards (through Standard 6) calls for teachers to engage in professional learning to enhance their professional practice. It goes without saying that quality professional learning needs to target the needs of the teacher as learner. It was at the 2016 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Colorado that I saw one of the best examples of andragogy that I have ever seen and it all involved education technology tools.
Approximately 20,000 teachers from over 60 different countries attend the ISTE conference every year, making it the largest conference on Earth. The conference is spread over a few days, but with literally hundreds of workshops on offer, some major activities occur prior to the official opening of the conference. The sheer scale and scope of the conference makes it the ideal conference to attend for those who are searching for something different on the education technology landscape.
One of the events held before the official opening of the ISTE conference caught my imagination and has resonated with me ever since. It was called the Mobile MegaShare; a unique concept, yet with a very simple structure. It was a wonderful learning opportunity. The event occurs annually at the ISTE conference and is put together by the ISTE Mobile Learning Network.
The Mobile MegaShare focused on mobile technology. This included devices and apps, along with tools, inventions and portable technology such as drones and robots. It was the structure of the learning, however, that made it so appealing to all those who participated. The best way to describe it is educational speed dating.
The ISTE Mobile Learning Network team set up 26 stations on circular tables in a large open conference room. Each table had an expert who had some technology to talk about, explain and allow participants to play and experiment with. Each table had eight seats. Upon entering the conference room, attendees were faced with a large wall that had 26 A4 pages posted on it. On each page was the name of a workshop, the name of the presenter and a brief description of what technology they would be learning about in the mini workshop at the table. Once attendees found a table for a workshop that interested them, they made their way there to participate in a small group workshop. Every 30 minutes or so, an announcement would be made that it was time to switch places. Participants then moved to their next workshop of interest, bypassing those that did not suit their learning needs. Teachers so often talk about self-directed learning when it comes to their students; this was the best large-scale event that authentically gave adults a real choice in directing their own learning. The format is a real winner.
Personally, I saw some amazing tools being used, some of which I have already incorporated into my teaching. Here is my top five:
A startup company that combines two of my favourite things with some great Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) based learning for students. The Flybrix company joins LEGO and drones together for the first time. Students can use LEGO to design and build their own drone. They then insert the appropriate electronics and Arduino chips to either directly program, fly their drone by app or by remote control.
As a fan of augmented reality (AR), it was easy to fall in love with this beautiful app. Teachers and students can use any surface to create their own AR marker. Then they can have a plethora of animals come to life in the classroom. Imagine watching a giraffe towering over a computer keyboard or a T-Rex running on top of a student’s desk. The image comes with facts, so it would be incredibly easy to adapt this tool to an informative writing task.
- Elements 4D
Another AR choice with physical cubes, this one is likely for older students as it is a chemistry AR set. On each face of the cubes is an image of an element. Students can use the app to scan the cube and they will literally see what the element would look like in real life and they can access information about the element. What is really cool though is if students place two blocks together and scan them with the app, they see the augmented reality of the chemical reaction by seeing the new compound that is made from combining those two elements. Safe, fun, hands-on science!
- Circuit Scribe.
The Circuit Scribe concept is a new take on how to teach electric circuits and I have successfully used it in my own classroom. The students loved it. Basically, it involves using a small battery, little LED clips and metallic gel pens. Simply place the battery on the end of some paper, position LED lights at the other end of the paper and students draw the wires. Enough electricity flows from the battery to the LEDs to light them up. There is no need to ever worry about wires and globes again. Plus, because it is such a hands-on activity, it was very easy to just grab another piece of paper and draw a ‘working’ explanation of switches and resistors, and so on.
All teachers know that teaching can be a lonely job. They spend most of their working day with children. Professional development at school leaves them too often swimming in the same pool of thoughts and ideas. Conferences provide new ways of thinking, but they have limited interaction with the presenters and those around them. This MegaShare model changes all that. Teachers get to connect directly with the presenter and make many new connections with other professionals as they work their way through the self-selected learning activities.
The Good News
#aussieED has committed itself to running a MegaShare event in Australia in 2017. If you would like to know more about the upcoming event, keep an eye on our site aussieED.com or connect with anyone of the team members on twitter using the #aussieED hashtag. We would also love to connect with anyone who would like to be involved or even host a MegaShare.
Brett Salakas is the founder of #aussieED. He is a primary teacher, a Google Certified teacher and a speaker. Brett is committed to turning educational theory into classroom practice. Follow Brett on Twitter @MRsalakas