Include more children speakers at (online) conferences. Some ‘how to’s’ on making it work and keeping it authentic.

Children’s voices are largely missing from debates and conferences, even when they themselves are the subject matter. How can we ensure that more children get to contribute and be heard?
In this post I share lessons learned at Design-athon on how we have included children as speakers in a variety of offline, online and international conferences.

Francis from Tanzania, Nora from the Netherlands and Joppe from Belgium, who spoke at the Cinekid Professionals Festival (online)

Inviting Children, be inclusive
Depending on the time you have and the topic at hand, make a shortlist of children to invite. Three is a good number, if you are making a panel. Aim to have a mix of boys and girls and cultural backgrounds. In the case of the Cinekid Festival we had Francis, 11 years from Tanzania, Joppe, 12 from from Belgium and Nora, 13 from the Netherlands. In the case of the Ashoka Changemaker Summit we had two children, Breno 12 and Mijntje, 11 to join a panel of adults and other young people.

At designathon we work with children, through schools, after-school programs and events we host ourselves in this way we know many children in a variety of contexts who have worked on the Sustainable Development Goalss and thus a variety of topics. If you don’t work with children yourself, reach out to a local school, or a children’s NGO and invite them to propose a child to take part in your event.

Child safety and legal permission
Child safety is paramount, furthermore a legal guardian must give their consent for the child to take part and or have their photo or video published. Typical documents to get signed are a ‘Quit claim’ or ‘Consent form’ It is good practice to limit the publishing of the child’s photo or video to the context of the event or the website of the event organiser.
To further protect children, we only ever publish their first names and age. Don’t include any address or contact details. Do make sure the the child is included in the program lineup with their expertise (not just as a child) For example: ‘Lya 10, Inventor’ The atmosphere and context at the event should also be child friendly.

Practicing with the child/ren
Children, especially the first time they speak are naturally nervous. You can help them by explaining clearly how the session will go, what’s expected of them, how long it will take and encouraging them that people will be eager to hear what they have to say. I often work with an interview format, and discuss the kinds of the things the child would like to tell beforehand and then we role play practice a few times. In general in my work the children are telling about their own invention for an SDG Design-athon challenge they worked on.

Lya, 10, speaking at ‘Youth with Dreams’ (online)

Multiple languages and translating
Many international events are in English, and not all children of course speak English fluently. This doesn’t have to be a problem. You have two main options:

1. On zoom (or other video conferencing tool) you can use ‘closed captioning’ whereby an adult (or teenager) who speaks the language the child speaks plus English, sufficiently well, does simultaneous translation. They type the child’s words as they speak and this appears on screen as subtitles.

2. A translator is included in the panel or video conference and translates what the child says to English immediately after the child has spoken. With a bit of practice this can be done with flow, although it brings a time cost factor with it.

Spontaneity, authenticity
An important reason for including children in debates is because they often are the ones to ‘hit the nail on the head’ about an issue. They ‘tell it like it is’ So while you want to help the child feel confident by practicing or rehearsing. Do also leave time and opportunity for the audience or moderator to ask the child/ren questions. So they can speak their truth, a truth which is so valuable to hear.

Rosa, 7 Amalia, 11 Shira, 8 Tessa, 10 at ‘We Make the City’ (live)

Do you work with children and encourage their inclusion at events and or create opportunities for them to speak and be heard?
I’d love to hear how you make things work or if you have questions, please post them below.

Let’s hear more children’s perspectives on our shared futures.

Teaching is a Creative Profession. Interview w @JelmerEvers

I interviewed Jelmer Evers, to find out more of his ideas on education reform in the Netherlands and wider. This is part of my THNK Challenge on the Future of Education.
Jelmer is an avid blogger, tweeter, teacher and education reformer. He teaches at UniC in Utrecht, NL and has, together with his students experiemented with a number of new forms of teaching such as flipping the classroom. He says ‘ Students must become the owner of their own learning process’


Skype interview. January 8th 2013.

Let’s kick off with the role of the teacher in the class, how do you see it?

Jelmer: That depends a bit, on the level of the students, mainly I believe it’s about helping the students to find their own voice. It’s been a big introspection on my own learning experiences and this has shaped the way I teach. Sometimes you deviate from your plans, and sometimes students prefer more formal methods, it’s good to note that children between 12 and 18 also need structure. Too much structure doesn’t work and too much freedom doesn’t either. What I can say is that across the board, all students like practical assignments. Theoretically minded and practically minded students alike they like working on real assignments.

Let’s talk about the role of the teacher in the designing of curricula

Jelmer: Ownership of your topic and autonomy in how you teach it, is essential to good teaching, you should really enjoy teaching your subject, you have to own it and shape it. In my vision, a teacher should help students to become makers, so you need that quality of making and designing yourself in order to pass it on. If you want good teacher’s they should also be instructional designers too. Instructional design was only a small part of the teacher training in the Netherlands, that should have been more. Teaching is a really creative profession.

And how does Holland compare to Finland, the walhalla of Education

In Finland they teach maybe 500 hours or less to a class, while Holland has one of the highest rates with nearly 700 hours of teaching. Check out the OECD comparison here. This difference is key, those are the hours that teachers can spend on lesson development and building their own capacities, keeping up with new developments. People designing education don’t seem to have a clue what it really takes time wise to teach. You have to allow people time to be the best teachers, it’s a key component in the mix.

In UniC, where Jelmer teaches, they work as a team, in developing a path through the curriculum, curating the contents from available sources. He is just about to spend three days with his co-teachers of  History, Geography, social sciences and economics to make a shared curriculum. If you design your own path through the curriculum, it can also save you time down the road, as you own the process.

Jelmer on education Reform in Holland.

The system really needs to change, many of the things we do in schools now are a complete waste of time for students. The system needs to change both from the top down and from bottom up. That’s where Jelmer and his ilk come in. There is a history in Holland of top down change which hasn’t worked. What’s needed for bottom up change is to allow teachers to innovate and to keep the innovative teachers in the profession. The Ministry of Education can benefit by having more people working there who are active teachers, as opposed to only listening to educators or policy makers. It’s just too easy to underestimate the tenacity of the system.
Teacher’s are needed to co-create education reform.

And which education visionaries inspire Jelmer?

Here are some of his favorites:

Andy Hargreaves, The Fourth Way.

Will Richardson, blogger and former teacher.

Pasi Salberg, Finnish researcher.

And the classics such as John Dewi, Maria Montessori and JeanPiaget combined with technical disruption.

Steven Downes, who invented Moocs, toegther with George Siemens.
He preaches a new version of social constructivism, called connectivism.

Steve Wheeler, with a focus on new technologies.

Dylan William, professional education.

Daniel Wilingham, educational pyschologist, gives teaching and learning. Gives teaching more fundaments. and combines teacher practice and research.

Aside: Are there no ladies in this field?

And finally, too many people leave teaching, Jelmer is trying to combine, his passion for teaching with his other passions such as teacher trainer and blogger. He really enjoys teaching. Let’s hope he stays, students need great teachers like him.

mLearn 2102 – Mobile Learning and School transformation.

Mobile Learning and School transformation.

Brendan Tangney, professor at Trinity College Dublin, in his keynote, looked at three questions. First off, for me it’s great to be able to listen to Bernard from Trinity college Dublin, as he’s from the same city as I am.

The 1st  Question that Bernard researched is:
Can non-technies create interesting mobile AR learning apps using APP Inventor from MIT.

Their conclusion after trying, a number of fun experiments overlaying draughts (a simple form of chess) into a live game on a rugby pitch is the  answer is NO, not yet it’s too complicated.

Now Bernard is moving on to a theme closer to my heart
Designing the 21C ‘classroom’ learning experiences.

Bernard kicked off with a quote ‘Stationary desks and chairs are proof that the system at hand is propagating slavery’ Montessori. and goes on to say that that’s a pretty radical statement, but that you have to be pretty radical if you want school change.

He mentions the SAMR model for technology adoption, which they use in their work,
Transformation (redefinition and modification) vs. Enhancement

The project Bernard is doing is called Bridge 21, they get students from regular schools to come into the University, to work.  It started as an outreach project. They don’t beieve in one laptop per child model, they see laptops and technologies as shared devices. Collaborative working is central. They use a team model inspired by the scouting model, which is highly structured and from experience students adopt the team work approach very quickly but teachers find it endlessly difficult. For them it’s a revolutionary change.

Topics covered in the Bridge 21 program include multimedia making, programming and even core curriculum  maths teaching to each other. With quite some success. We see a video of students at the program and sharing their experiences on it, and students clearly report increased confidence, and good to mention that the students they are working with would be from ‘disadvantaged backgrounds’ so this is a great achievement.

So what about systemic change? in ireland.
that being Bernards real aim.

As Bernard points out you can’t have a discussion about education without talking about PISA. Luckily in Ireland the education minister is keen on an overhaul and is going what Bernard calls the “Finnish Route’ This is a great opportunity for 21st century skills to get foot on the ground in schools and eventually have 21st century schools across the country.

Key 21st Century skills that they are working on are ‘Being Creative’, Working with Others’ Managing information  thinking’ They have also come up with new ways of assessing these skills and their initial findings show some measurable positive changes.

Now the audience is asking questions and most people want to know about the potential in Ireland to transform the system and what parties are for and against.

You can find the slides Bernard used are here:

Future Schools, SIngapore,

Presented by Yu Wei and Hyo-Jeong So.
An Evaluation Framework on Contextual Mobile Learning: Deriving from a Systematic Review

In Singapore 5% of schools are flagged to be Future Schools, they receive a lot of funding for this, and their research work works with these Future Schools. The Future schools,  have for example,
1. Whole school ICT approach,
2.  1:20 teacher student approach,
3. students have own laptop and ipad for outdoor learning.
4. The school inside has a very open and flexible architecture.

Yu Wei and team have designed what they call Mobile Learning trails.

The evaluation levels they work with to know if this mobile learning and future schools are having desired results are:
1. Ministry’s goals
2. Institutional demands
3. Students experience.

They started with this question:
What consists of a good contextual mobile learning model, How do we evaluate?

I’m afraid I couldn’t quite follow, their process, which was aimed to evaluate students progress.
But this si the aim fo Future Schools
The FutureSchools@Singapore aims to equip our pupils holistically with the essential skills to be effective workers and citizens in the globalised and digital workplace of the future

John Traxler
Unpacking question around Digital Literacy.

I love listening to John unpack things, he seems to continually  search for the nuance and the intangible and the cultural and ethical consequences of ideas and movements.

While part of a definition would be, ‘They are essential to an individuals life chances’ John says it’s often reduced to just meaning IT skills, which leaves out the cultural, community, political aspects of digital literacy.

Digital Literacy is probably a pre requisite for  Digital Citizenship and Digital Scholarship and relates to the concepts: Digital Divides and Digital Inclusion. And is further confused by the terms and discussions round digital natives and digital immigrants.

From a ‘ready to graduate’ perspective the need for digital literacy relates the question / why and what for do we educate’ which has a number of changing dynamics currently. If we look at literacy, which usually means being able to read and write and manage numbers. Then digital literacy is being able to read and write with digital devices to express yourself.

And then how does this relate to mobile learning? Mobile digital literacy.
Yet Mobile technologies are socially pervasive and are transforming our society making the text all the more local, location based and transient. Making the idea of authority of the text all the less substantial. Which influences the variety of genres one would want to or need to ‘read’
Cyberspace vs. phone space. Technologies are breeding. What’s being read and what’s doing the reading is changing. And where does this leave literacy?

Here is John’s full paper on this: Identity and Context, The reader and the Read

mLearn 2012, Flow, Distance Learning and Open formats.

mLearn 2012, sessions on Flow, Distance Learning and Open formats.
afternoon Wednesday 17th October

Up now is Keynote from Lauri Järvilehto of Filosofian Akatemia Oy
which I think is related to Rovio games

Lauri is enthusiastically sharing his theory of good learning, which I think combines dopamine, brain scans, engagement, flow and playing. He has passed around his favorite book ‘Flow the psychology of optimal experience’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

auri is a fan of Angry Birds as a learning tool

The twitter backchannel as noted by @jocelynWish is not entirely convinced. for example:

Yishay Mor @yishaym –  @laurijarvilehto literature base is Andre Agasi, Amy Chua and TED talks? 

Mike Sharples @sharpim –  Understanding learning from brain activity is like trying to find why Homeland is great TV from measuring voltage in a TV set
Mike Sharples @sharpim I’m struck by the irony of a didactic lecture on optimal flow state

I do like his vision though that the school of the future which is coming will be engaging, fun, interactive full of driven students learning things they love.

Fun quote from Lauri

I don’t think that anyone should have to do what they don’t want to do unless they don’t want to do anything, then they should do everything.’

Dr. Mpine Makoe. The Pedagogy of Mobile Learning In Supporting Distance Learners

Mpine from UNISA is giving us a clear explanation of the challenges of supporting distance learners who only have access to a basic phone for interaction and often live in rural places.

For inspiration on how to make their distance learning more supportive and interactive for students, Mpine and colleagues look to these three pedagogy models:
1. Guided didactic conversation, Holmberg
2. Transactional distance, Moore
3. Integration of teaching and Learning acts Keegan

Mpine now support learners via Mxit to run peer learning groups, sms quizzes and learner checks as to their progress. The students held discussions on Mxit and then later shared their discussion thread with Mpine so she coudl analyse and give feedback. Interesting model!

and from twitter:

Ronda Zelezny-Green @Glam_mobileLeo

Teachers can send motivational msgs via mobiles to learners in to support dist ed pursuits – Dr. Mpine Makoe 

Mobile-based weekly self-assessments helps keep dist ed learners engaged, registered for class – Dr. Mpine Makoe




Geoff Stead. mLearning – towards open formats

Geoff is talking about a 2 year research on ‘On the job – blending task and learning’ and then in the context of disaster management. Disaster management is probably one of the most challenging environments and certainly when you want to promote open and collaborative learning in such a context.

The app / mobile web site Geoff and his team have devekoped is called ‘Global Med Aid’ and its for use for learning, sharing, checking and connecting while working in a disaster.

“you can’t only dissect content or usability or information levels, they are all intertwined’

His team has been working with tools which presume BYOD, (bring your own device) and then Geoff shows the spectrum from native apps to mobile web to text only and explains where his work falls on the spectrum. This is definitely not text only, it’s a rich media experience. They went thru’ several iterations of cross platform, from Html5 and native app, combination. Whereby each delivers certain aspects of the learning experience.

You can see some of his slides and notes here:

Geoff reminds us that when you are aiming for device agnostic and you want to deliver a smooth user experience, and this is a huge challenge, one which most people baulk at and opt for only one device afterall.  Luckily for us Geoff and team have convinced their funders to share all their learnings openly,

so coming up in the next two weeks is what they call OMLET and it’s going to be available here.

Well done Geoff, a serious nut to crack.

mage from Geoff’s Blog

mLearn 2012, takeaway’s day 2

I’m at mLearn 2012 in Helsinki, a primarily academic conference from people working on mobile learning across schools, higher education, informal learning in both European, North American contexts and South Africa and Bangladesh. I’m interested in both contexts.

Wed October 17

KeyNote Eric Klopfer, MIT Scheller Teacher Education Program and the Education Arcade
Theory of Change?  and App Inventors

Explaining the American context of computer labs, huge lists of contents that need to be ingested by students, the ‘No child left behind’ policy which leads to a lot of testing, all leading to a shortage of students and teacher’s time. Eric and his team at MIT ubiquitous learning have created a series of mobile web games to support STEM learning amongst school going students.
The games they made are designed to encourage short bursts of play repeatedly over time, much like Farmville. The based on the idea that students can play in the times between class, or lunch time.

What? I’m wondering what the theory of change at work here is? Do they not wish to challenge the status quo of chasing grades in old ways. Is this not operating on the presumption that the time in between class and lunch is otherwise empty or useless. Don’t students need time to talk, reflect, play sports, not learn?

In the second half of Eric’s Keynote he went back to his opening statement which I love:
Games or playful learning is not about making learning fun, it should be about showing that learning is fun.
In the games they are designing and measuring Eric’s team are critically exploring the use of badges and what they reward. If I understand correctly he  is advocating for smarter use of badges, we shouldn’t reward behaviour that gamers/learners would do anyway such as just showing up, or simple task but as games designers we should reward solving puzzles of gradually increased difficulty with differentiated badges and rewards such as entering the sandbox.
He says: ‘Structured, goal orientated feedback-driven can be fun. Structure is fun’

Finally Eric promotes the designing of apps by younger students, Yeah!
Using App Inventor created at Google, it includes a ‘block’ interface (such as Scratch) to make programming easier for beginners.
They have the App inventor curriculum. In a few weeks from now there will be a MOOC on app invention and entrepreneurship. Going live in 3 weeks, in Spanish.

Low Cost Mobile Phones for Large Scale Teacher Professional Development in Bangladesh
English in Action
More about the presenters here

I already got good insights into how this program works in Bangladesh, from Marc Stouwe when I was in Dhaka last May, so excellent to get this presentation from the Open University team from the UK.

It’s all about supporting the teaching of English language in Bangladeshi schools. Currently they support 5000 teachers with this program and they aim by 2017 to take this up to 18.000 teachers catering for 10 million students across Bangladesh. So the scale is quite substantial for a mobile learning program.

The technology being used is an interesting model to me, it’s quite like what we do in Afghanistan in the Great Idea project, they use Nokia C1-01, 4GB SD card and portable rechargeable speakers. The premise being that in the long term teacher’s have already these phones, so that is both cheaper and poses no technology adaptation obstacles. The portable speakers, allow for use in off the grid classrooms.

What teacher’s said about the program:
Teachers work in pairs, they often find this a significant improvement in their teaching practice and the other equally named improvement are the video and audio helps which supports the in-school curriculum. (Both primary and secondary) There are 400 audio filesNote, how do they navigate these files?

There are also 4 videos on phones that show both a pedagogical approach to be used in the class which encourages a more participatory delivery style than is perhaps usual currently in Bangladeshi classrooms.

The kind of indicators that EIA has been measuring to check the impact of this program, are: how much of the class is spoken in english language, pronunciation skills of both children and teachers. Assessment was done independently through a large scale interviewing of participants.

Mobi MOOC,
Investigating learner interactions via ubiquitous accessInge de Waard

In September this year Inge ran a MOOC called MobiMOOC (Which I lurked in)
which was a highly informative and friendly Mooc which I thoroughly enjoyed lurking. All the materials are still online so if you want an introduction to a wide range of Mobile Learning topics.

Inge is investigating (alongside providing and moderating the whole MobiMOOC) how well it worked in general and the importance of learner interactions in MOOC’s. You can see her slides here
r follow here on twitter @ignatia for her ongoing research into this topic.