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There’s every chance that you are one of the more than 10 million people who’ve already seen this video since it was posted online just three weeks ago on April 30th 2015, but on the slim chance that you haven’t, here it is.

Like me though, if you have already seen it, you’ll be happy to take a few minutes out of the day and watch it again!

The incredible applications that 3D printing continues to bring to our lives and to our world are ones that few of us could  have ever imagined!

Social Media is a powerful force.

Connecting with each other across the globe to share, communicate and learn from each other has become commonplace. Without a doubt, traditional professional learning is being turned on its head as teachers and educators embrace Social Media as a learning tool.

But does Social Media hold the same valued position in our classrooms? Are educators taking steps to incorporate Social Media into their day to day teaching programs? Or are we hesitating, holding back, still languishing in a belief that Social Media is just a means for our young to chat and meet up with each other in cyberspace? Is there any solid reason to not harness the power of Social Media in our classrooms? Has fear mongering about the dangers of teacher-student relationships sullied our nerve to give it a go and use this powerful tool to harness learning and sharing among our youth?

Mention of Social Media in our schools often revolves around cyberbullying though. While I don’t question the importance and necessity of teaching our students the importance of engaging in responsible use, there is so much more that can be garnered from opening the door to Social Media in our classrooms.

Given that our students are using Social Media so widely and so regularly in their own time, it seems almost logical to integrate its use into our classroom teaching. With established guidelines and boundaries, online programs in which students can connect, learn and share with other students across the world via Social Media can be created.

Educators have long used the pervasive influence of peer pressure as a way of ensuring group acceptance and involvement in a range of educational programs.   Competitions, often used as a way of gaining widespread student involvement in a range of different school based activities, is perhaps one of the most obvious ways educators have harnessed peer pressure. Undeniably peer pressure is one of the driving forces behind the incredible uptake of Social Media by our youth. So let’s make the most of it and create meaningful and enjoyable learning programs in our schools.

Why not place students at the centre of teaching programs, enabling them to recognize the value and importance each and every one of them has to contribute to our world. Looking at positive programs such as The YOU MATTER Manifesto outlined by Angela Maiers – @AngelaMaiers – is well worth consideration as we define our aims and objectives then develop and deliver programs which incorporate Social Media into our classroom programs enabling students to build their positive digital footprint.

The YOU MATTER Manifesto

Educators need to think laterally to envision projects and group activities based on the use of Social Media. Knowing that the ownership of ideas is extremely powerful, why not have students initiate projects and group activities based on the use of Social Media?

For too long educators have been rejecting the use of Social Media in schools as irrelevant.  In some schools, the use of Social Media is banned and smartphones are confiscated.  What kind of message does this send to vulnerable students?  Surely, as a society, we have learned that prohibition only pushes use underground.  Learning, in an educational setting, responsible use of something prohibited, banned or forbidden is not possible.

It’s time for educators to lift their heads out of the sand, to acknowledge that there has been a cosmic shift in the way thoughts, ideas and experiences are shared.  Rather than shying away from using Social Media in our schools, we need to harness its power.  Acknowledge the excessive use of Social Media by our youth, highlight all that is good about it and incorporate it into our teaching so that ‘teachable moments’ about the positive ways that Social Media can be used can be created.

Embracing the skills of the students we teach, having them become our teachers, is a recipe for a new era of education – one in which each and every one of them MATTER!

I came across this image a while ago.  It says it all:  It’s a ME world alright!

Social MEdia

With so many ways to communicate and share, I sometimes feel that the means overtakes the ‘me’.  Hours and hours of our time are whittled away as we share the minuet of our daily lives in an online world which is burgeoning with an ever increasing range of social networking websites.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember how life was BSM – Before Social Media!

It has crept up on us.
It eats up our time.
It dominates our lives.
It has impacted society.

An insatiable need to share and know what others are doing, thinking and feeling has evolved to incredible proportions.  Social Media today seeps into every aspect of our lives and is not something that can be ignored.   This new and powerful way of connecting, sharing and communicating is greater than many of us could have ever imagined.

It is inevitable that both positive and negative outcomes should derive from Social Media.

Bullying has transformed into cyberbullying.  Programs to combat cyberbullying have spawned social intelligence curricula which are taking on increasing importance in the daily teaching agenda.

But a new and ugly impact of Social Media is dawning on educators.  As we confront the reality of how easily our students can be encouraged, influenced, coerced, brainwashed or radicalized by another is a frightening reality which educators need to assess, consider and unitedly tackle.

Knowing how best to combat the powerful influence of dogma was never part of a teacher’s lot.  It is now though.

Convincing a school to buy into a product called Pencil, a messaging app designed for teachers to communicate with students and their families, was not as simple as it would seem says Jason Tanz in an article Your kid’s school is missing the Tech Revolution and it’s all your fault. (Wired, February 23, 2015)

Despite the Principal’s support, overworked teachers balked at the idea of having to learn a new system and parents were skeptical: privacy issues could be an issue.  Explaining what went wrong, Pencil’s CEO, Yogesh Sharma, said:

There’s all these stakeholders—the principals, the PTA, the teachers, and then there’s the district that has their own way of doing things. You’re in the middle of this crossfire and the ball doesn’t move because nobody has the ability to make a quick decision.”

Taking a closer look, Tanz commented on the struggle facing entrepreneurs and academics who are regularly “stymied by predictably sclerotic bureaucracies and overcautious government agencies” when attempts are made to introduce new technology into our schools. Instead, he notes, entrepreneurs have been taking the back door approach, targeting end users: students and teachers and thus avoiding ‘blocks’ laid down by administrators.

It’s an interesting scenario which Tanz suggests is

reminiscent of the way Apple invaded the workplace by selling so many iPhones to individual employees that IT departments had no choice but to incorporate them. Or to the way that Uber has quickly signed up so many customers that it has forced legislators to rewrite their laws to accommodate them or risk alienating their citizens.

This kind of argument certainly made me stop and think about what’s been happening in schools.

Could it be that teachers are being, unsuspectingly, manipulated?
Could it be that students are forcing change upon us?

With more than 750 million educational apps to be installed world wide on mobile devices this year, Tanz highlights the shift occurring in schools when he quotes John Doerr in The Wall Street Journal (August 21st, 2014)

The mobile technologies that have revolutionized the American workplace are now transforming our education system,” he wrote. “For years entrepreneurs and educators have been pushing to bring education technology into the classroom, but adoption has often been slow. Now the education tech landscape is shifting toward mobile devices and new, free and easy-to-use services.”

While this process sounds simple enough, the blocks to progress continue.  The range and quality of new apps and services regularly leave parents, teachers, eLearning leaders and school administrators scratching their heads as they try to figure out which apps are best to bring into school programs.  And, as Tanz suggests, getting teachers on board is not quite as easy as it sounds. Giving an analogy of teachers to physicians who resisted the adoption of electronic medical records, Tanz suggests that teachers feel threatened or annoyed by incursions into the ‘sanctity of their classroom’.

It’s my strong belief however that there is more to it than this.

Teachers are time poor and way too overloaded to easily adopt and adapt new technology into their lessons.”

Exploring apps to determine how they can be incorporated into the curriculum, picking up news skills and re-learning how to present lessons using new technology are all time consuming tasks.  Tagging this discovery and learning onto the end of a very busy, demanding day in which teachers are constantly on call is no easy ask.

Few other occupations demand as much of their employees as does education.  It is incumbent on school administrators to look at the big picture and to consider how teachers can be relieved of the constant time pressure they face.  It is essential that learning opportunities which are pleasurable, enjoyable and exciting be created within the school day.  Teachers should be encouraged to take up opportunities to experiment, discover and explore tools, skills, and pedagogy of their own choosing.  Rather than being required to focus on per-determined learning programs prescribed by the school, teachers, just like the students in our schools, should be required to set their own learning goals and to determine the own path to achieve these goals.

In this way, teachers can become role models to their students in the exciting journey of lifelong learning.

A friend of mine (thanks Chris!) shared an image on Facebook this week.

Teacher at beginning and end of year

Clearly the image struck a chord with me as it kept resurfacing in my mind for the next 24 hours!   Sadly, this image really reflects a sad reality.  There wouldn’t be a teacher out there, young or old, experienced or inexperienced, who wouldn’t nod their head in agreement on seeing this.

And yet, the status quo seems to continue.  Issues such as the ever increasing work load which brings on inevitable teacher stress and burn out is not being adequately addressedIt’s a topic I’ve blogged about in the past: Passion vs Process.

A conversation had just recently with a work colleague focused on the high turn over rate of young teachers.  As more experienced teachers move into retirement, few young teachers stay for long in what used to be a ‘lifetime’ career. Apart from implementing ‘buddy’ programs to ease new recruits into the system, little else seems to be happening to nurture the initial passion of this valuable cohort of educators in our schools to ensure that they stay in the job.  It’s a shame.  The situation is even more poignant when we consider the incredible time, cost and effort investment made by student teachers, those responsible for the training programs and the school based supervising teachers involved in the teacher training programs. The losers are, of course, our students.

The message in an article in The Age this week: Google to rank ‘mobile-friendly’ sites higher (April 21, 2015) was crystal clear – if you don’t ‘keep up’ you’ll miss out!

From Wednesday, Google will prioritise companies that have “mobile-friendly” websites when people use the search engine on their smartphones or tablet computers.”

Small Business Australia, it was reported, has asked Google for more time to make the switch as 66% of Australian websites are not yet optimised for mobile devices and will therefore be disadvantaged.

Behind good business acumen and computer literacy  lays education.  The education of our society is inextricably bound to the teachers within our schools.  Teachers in a constant state of stress cannot perform at their optimum level.

Time to face this reality is now – before it is too late!

I’m passionate about the issue of lifelong learning and the value it has for each of us as educators.

Traditional professional learning programs which still predominate in our schools are no longer the best way to engage teachers.  Education, particularly teacher education, has been irrevocably altered by technology.  The ease of communication between teachers has opened up new pathways.  Life in our highly ‘connected’ world is transforming how teachers learn, what they learn, when they learn and with whom they learn.   A range of very effective teacher education programs are constantly evolving and it is time for school administrators to re-think the nature of learning opportunities being offered to teachers.

Having often written about lifelong learning here on NovaNews and having presented my thoughts on this topic at a number of conferences over recent years, it’s great to have been offered the opportunity to write a series of articles about lifelong learning for Education Technology Solutions, an Australian based publication which also has a web presence via its blog.

My first article in this series: Be inspired: Become a lifelong learner! has just been published in Education Technology Solutions – Issue 65, April/May 2015.

ABSTRACT: In our rapidly changing world teachers need to become self-starters who learn for the sake of learning rather than because it is a requirement. By discovering the joy of learning and its inherent power, the ‘one size fits all’ type learning, so typical of teacher training programs and professional development activities, can be replaced by meaningful and personalized programs and activities which nurture lifelong learning. This article explores a range of alternate learning opportunities which can be created within our schools.

Also published online on the Educational Technology Solutions website, I’m pleased to be able to share it directly with my readers here.

Be Inspired: Become A Lifelong Learner!

lifelongBy Bev Novak.

Stop for a moment and think: What is the best professional learning program you have ever experienced?

Was it one of the weekly school staff meetings? Perhaps it was a curriculum day session or a conference you attended at the end of the year? Was it a session you were required to attend or a session you were hanging out to attend? Was it a talk, a presentation, a workshop or a reading? Was it a one off session or a series of sessions? Were you required to actively participate and/or submit required responses? Did it involve the use of social media, the blogosphere or attendance in an online forum? Did you pick up new skills and knowledge that have now become part and parcel of your teaching personae?

Back to work blues!

I’ve had two glorious weeks off work. No alarm clock.  Lots of opportunities to sleep-in. Plenty of time to smell the roses.

Tomorrow it all ends though …..

I dread being woken by the shrill noise of my alarm clock and then stumbling my way through the first few waking moments of the day.

So when I read about Wakē ….. my ears pricked up!

Wakē is a modern alarm clock that wakes you up with a personal sunrise and focused sounds – waking up each person in bed individually”

Check it out. This sure sounds like a great one to back on Kickstarter!

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