In a world where schools are increasingly banning mobile devices, it’s time to ponder how they’ll navigate the tide of innovative tech flooding in, like Humanes AI Pin, which graced the runway at Paris Fashion Week, or the eagerly anticipated Rewind Pendant.

As we witness these sweeping policies infiltrate our education systems, it’s apparent that technology is advancing at breakneck speed, threatening to outstrip these regulations. Soon, the humble mobile phone will become a relic of the past, and our connection to technology will become more intimate and intrinsic.

But, one might ask, how can schools possibly police devices that can discreetly hide under clothing or slip into pockets? The idea of introducing full-body scanners seems unlikely. Instead, let’s pivot the conversation towards a more constructive angle—education and support, two pillars that schools excel at.

It’s imperative that we empower our educators and young learners with strategies to navigate this rapidly evolving technological landscape. Rather than churning out unprepared, tech-anxious graduates at Year 12, we should strive to equip them with the knowledge and confidence they need to thrive in a tech-driven world. After all, isn’t that what schools do best?

Here’s an update via Zain Kahn

“After the surprise launch of the AI Pin by Humane on the Paris Fashion Week runway last week, AI startup Rewind announced Rewind Pendant yesterday. The wearable gadget captures everything you say and hear and then transcribes and stores it so you can do things like:

· Recall what someone said in an earlier conversation

· Take meeting notes and share them with your team

· Generate to-do lists and bookmark things for later

The Pendant is a new device in a growing list of AI-powered hardware that includes Meta’s Ray-Ban smart glasses and Tab by Avi. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and legendary iPhone designer Jony Ive are also reportedly in talks with SoftBank to raise $1 Billion for a new AI hardware device.”

“It’s difficult to say exactly how tools like ChatGP will impact education, as there are many factors that could influence this. However, it’s likely that tools like ChatGP will make it easier for students to access educational resources and information, and this could potentially make it easier for them to learn. Additionally, tools like ChatGP may be able to help teachers by providing them with additional support and resources for their classrooms. Ultimately, the impact of tools like ChatGP on education will depend on how they are implemented and used.

What about the impact on the K-12 Sector in particular?

The impact of tools like ChatGP on the K-12 education sector could be similar to their impact on education in general. By providing students and teachers with easy access to educational resources and information, these tools could potentially make it easier for students to learn and for teachers to provide effective instruction. Additionally, tools like ChatGP may be able to help schools and teachers by providing them with additional support and resources for their classrooms. However, the specific impact of these tools on the K-12 education sector will depend on how they are implemented and used in that context.

How do we convince teachers that using AI doesn’t equate to cheating?

One way to convince teachers that using AI is not cheating is to explain to them that AI is simply a tool that can be used to help students learn. By providing students with access to additional information and resources, AI can help them to better understand complex concepts and improve their knowledge and skills. Additionally, it’s important to emphasize that the use of AI is not a replacement for human instruction, but rather a supplement that can support and enhance the learning process. Ultimately, it will be up to teachers to decide whether or not they want to incorporate AI into their teaching, but providing them with information about the benefits of these tools can help to convince them that using AI is not cheating.

How can I convince teachers of the benefits of AI?

To convince teachers of the benefits of AI, you could highlight some of the ways in which AI can support and enhance the learning process. For example, you could explain that AI can provide students with access to a wealth of information and resources that can help them to better understand complex concepts. You could also point out that AI can help to personalize instruction, providing each student with a tailored learning experience that is optimized for their individual needs and abilities. Additionally, you could discuss the potential for AI to save teachers time and effort by automating certain tasks or providing them with additional support. Ultimately, the key to convincing teachers of the benefits of AI will be to provide them with concrete examples of how it can support their teaching and help their students to learn.

Can you provide me with concrete examples of how AI will support teachers and help students to learn?

  • AI can provide students with personalized learning experiences that are tailored to their individual needs and abilities. For example, an AI-powered tutoring system could assess a students’ knowledge and skills, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and then provide them with customized lesson plans and exercises to help them improve.
  • AI can help teachers to automate certain tasks, such as grading assignments or providing feedback on student work. This can save teachers time and effort, allowing them to focus on more high-level tasks like planning lessons and providing individualized instruction.
  • AI can provide students with access to a wealth of information and resources that can help them to better understand complex concepts. For example, an AI-powered encyclopedia or search engine could provide students with instant access to a wide range of information on any topic, allowing them to learn at their own pace and explore their interests in greater depth.
  • AI can help teachers to identify students who may be struggling with certain concepts and provide them with additional support. For example, an AI-powered system could monitor student progress and flag any students who are consistently falling behind, alerting teachers to the need for additional support or intervention.

These are just a few examples of how AI could support teachers and help students to learn. Ultimately, the specific ways in which AI will be used in education will depend on how it is implemented and the needs and goals of individual teachers and schools.”

This article was not written by me but was written by Chat AI in response to my questions in bold. I urge all educators to test this tool for themselves over the Summer break as you’ll soon see that every response to an essay question is unique and can be spat out in seconds. Tools, like Turn It In, will no longer work as this new technology bypasses traditional plagiarism altogether. With the proliferation of posts across the media and social media this week your students already know about these tools and Chat GP is just the latest one to be released. Many students are already using Open AI and similar tools. I know this as students are telling us that there are students in your classes getting top grades for work they haven’t written. How will this impact your assessment tasks heading into 2023?

Last week I spoke at the opening night of RELEARN2020, a learning innovation festival from the team at Learnlife Barcelona. It was a tremendous event with many of those that I admire in our sector speaking, stimulating, and sparking global conversations.

Whilst there’s something to be said for speaking on opening night, the video of my presentation was shared across the globe hundreds of times, something I had not anticipated and so because of this I have decided it was worthy of a follow-up article. 

The session was titled “Has Pedagogy had its day?”. A title to provoke, as was the order of the day, a title to spark conversation and discussion.

First a little of my background: my introduction to pedagogy was way back in the nineties whilst enrolled in a teaching degree. Four career changes later I wound up back in education where I’ve now been for a total of seventeen years. My real experience however is not with pedagogy but with heutagogy. I am a qualified vocational & training educator and I spent six years teaching in the Higher Education sector. What I saw there and the work we achieved moving a suite of postgraduate courses online (this was 15 years ago now) has had a significant impact on the work I later led in the K-12 sector. Working alongside the curriculum experts (our educators) and instructional designers we moved the whole of senior years curriculum online (for a blended mode of delivery) that launched in 2017.

Now I’m never one to follow the crowd, and in education, there are so many frameworks, methodologies, and pedagogies that I’ve purposefully never aligned myself to just one. I prefer to pick and choose, incorporating and melding them into the best of breed for my client, the school, the students, and the educators I work with and support.

I don’t think anyone can deny however that the model most dominant in K-12 settings is pedagogy (over heutagogy & andragogy). In my presentation, I explained why I think heutagogy is worthy of consideration in K-12, particularly in the middle to senior years. If we are serious about dismantling the constructs of the current paradigm, we need to consider all options and heutagogy has much to offer. 

In the recently released World Economic Forum Future Jobs 2020 Report they note that the skills gap we face in the lead up to 2025 (scarily not that far off) includes critical thinking and analysis, problem-solving and self-management. This places Heutagogy in the lead as the delivery model that can support the acquisition and development of these very skills. Heutagogy (also known as self-determined learning) is a student-centered instructional strategy that emphasises the development of autonomy, capacity, and capability. The goal of heutagogy is to teach lifelong learning and to produce learners who are well equipped to manage the complexities of today’s workplace, and as best we can tomorrow’s workplace too.

One comment I’ve heard over and over from educators this year was that senior students would in fact be far better prepared this year for tertiary studies than ever before due to their experience of remote learning through this period of school closures. What’s frustrating about this is why wasn’t this considered before now, wasn’t it obvious that there was a huge disconnect between secondary and tertiary education models? Perhaps like the current situation we find ourselves in, everyone agrees that there must be change but few have the courage to act.

In 2014 I returned from the ISTE conference in the US and informed my fellow executives that in the US, across the majority of states back then, it had become mandatory for students to complete a minimum of one online unit in preparation for further studies. We knew when preparing to launch our blended model in 2017, that our students would be far better prepared than most for tertiary studies, the world of work and indeed lifelong learning. It was a move that made many educators feel uneasy however it was an ‘opt in’ model so that those who were looking for a challenge would have that opportunity and be provided support and upskilling in instructional design and Heutagogical practices. As it turned out the educators and students found themselves in a fortunate position this year as they were far better prepared for the challenges they faced this year as schools here in Melbourne closed, many for 140+ days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The students who were in that first cohort to move online in 2017 were only weeks into their final year (Year 12/VCE) when schools closed but with three years of preparation, the feedback was that they felt they had all the skills and tools they needed to feel confident, be effective and finish strong. 

Prior to COVID, many schools were pursuing initiatives that would help them improve the student learning experience and drive better outcomes, as they had begun to realise that by helping teachers build expertise with online spaces and digital tools, they can better achieve their goals. 

The aim of my presentation was to highlight that as schools moved to remote learning, and particularly those who managed to deliver online learning true to its definition of providing both asynchronous and synchronous learning, we had naturally seen a drift towards heutagogy occurring, right down to the primary years. 

Academic Exchange Quarterly ISSN 1096-1453 Volume 23, Issue 1 Spring 2019

It is the courageous leaders that will take the lead now, ensuring they don’t let this rare opportunity to rethink schooling go to waste, playing the long term, strategic game to carve a unique niche in the marketplace that will secure their enrolments long into the future.  

I remain passionate about the technological tools and the underpinning architecture to support student learning and I’m driven by my own poor experience of schooling. My focus is always on the students, their needs, and how we can empower them to take responsibility for their learning. I want to ensure that every child leaves school prepared to solve the problems they will face in the future head-on which is what makes heutagogy so appealing.

I concluded my presentation with a quote attributed to Winston Churchill:

 “Never let a good crisis go to waste”

By using this quote, I meant that TODAY, we as school leaders and educators, have an amazing opportunity to do things differently. Educators across the globe have shown outstanding resilience and flexibility, pushing their practice even further towards Heutagogy during what was a highly stressful year for many. Now as we stop to draw breath and turn our attention to 2021, we must remember to take full advantage of the current environment. We need to reflect and focus on what worked for, and empowered, students and incorporate those successes into regular daily practice. 

The video has now been uploaded to my own website and you can view it below:

Has pedagogy had its day? screenshot

Link to the follow up Interview in January 2021 with the folks from Cohort 21:

“Although we’re hearing a lot about online learning because of arguments about how to reopen schools, colleges and universities, it’s been an educational tool for decades.” This article in today’s Age is worth a read, “Online learning good in the mix” (note it was the title in the digital version that hooked me in, “Face-to-face learning is not always best”

Online learning good in the mix

Whilst I love online learning for myself, I believe that a blended model is best used in K-12 settings. Schools will implement it for different reasons but in 2020 it’s mostly a reactionary response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many for whom it forms the basis of their business model e.g. School of the Air, The Royal Children’s Hospital Institute etc It should never be implemented as a cost-saving measure or you’ll be bitterly disappointed (the cost of IT infrastructure alone can make it prohibitive to many) but for those invested in moving from a pedagogical approach to heutagogy it’s a no brainer.

Heutagogy (self-determined learning) until very recently was only ever spoken about in the HEd context. In heutagogy, the learner is at the centre of their own learning. The heutagogical approach recognises the need to be flexible in the learning where the educator is the content expert and provides resources but the learner designs the curriculum by negotiating the learning.

With advances in technology directly impacting learning, digital learning methodologies promote autonomy and a learner-centred approach that are completely aligned with heutagogy. A heutagocial approach is perfectly suited to a School with an LMS delivering online learning but how many will make this leap do you think?

“Heutagogy is the study of self-determined learning … It is also an attempt to challenge some ideas about teaching and learning that still prevail in teacher centred learning and the need for, as Bill Ford (1997) eloquently puts it ‘knowledge sharing’ rather than ‘knowledge hoarding’. In this respect heutagogy looks to the future in which knowing how to learn will be a fundamental skill given the pace of innovation and the changing structure of communities and workplaces.”

lHase, S. and Kenyon, C. (2000). From andragogy to heutagogy. Ultibase, RMIT.

If you are interested in discovering more about Heutagogy I suggest you visit the Heutagogy Community of Practice.

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FSA Member schools were invited to join Mary-Lou O’Brien and Peter Hutton in conversation on Tuesday the 12th of May.

“Mary-Lou is a digital transformation leader, a change maker, an innovator, a self-confessed geek, a global explorer, a trend watcher, an Aussie retail pioneer, an intrapreneur & forever a student! In 1997 she became one of Australia’s internet pioneers when she launched Australia’s first online retail business, Australia Presents. With a varied background with an extensive cross sectoral history across education, travel and tourism, recruitment and retail, this conversation on how digital technology will redefine school-time in a post COVID world, is one not to be missed. Mary-Lou was a key change agent behind Melbourne Girls Grammar transformation to be positioned as one of the most innovative schools in Australia. A zoom link will be sent to FSA schools.”

Live Interview recorded May 2020

My last article focussed on Learning in COVID times and writing it reminded me of just how important some of my early decisions were in setting up an LMS in a school setting. A good LMS will not only support online learning first and foremost but will also provide a communication solution for the school community. 

My teen years were spent working in retail and travel sales. Straight from college, I entered the travel industry where I stayed for ten years honing my customer service and sales skills. I learnt some valuable lessons for my latter roles when I was expected to write up processes, instructions and prepare curriculum for online delivery.  

Again, this article may be too early for schools that have rushed into “emergency remote teaching” however when school administrators have time to reflect and refocus the questions of whether their customers (students, parents & staff) are having their needs met.

One of the major mistakes made in rolling out platforms and services is a high reliance on the technical experts (the IT team). These people are generally highly skilled technicians, network engineers and IT geeks, competent to install the software/server etc but few of them have design, teaching and marketing experience to deliver on what the platform should look like, what features are/aren’t needed in the classroom and what communication channels to utilise. In addition, most IT Managers do not have representation on the school executive team, so this means they aren’t exposed to the “big picture” and are not involved in strategic planning. 

A crucial role in Schools these days is the administrator of the LMS (Learning Management System. In seeking to feel this position my priorities were on finding:

  1. Someone with strong Customer service skills and experience – Sales (persuasive speaking), Empathy, Communication skills, Adaptability and Patience.
  2. Preferably someone with training experience but for the right person providing this training could be an excellent investment.
  3. A good eye for design (as mentioned in my previous article colour, fonts and imagery are all extremely important aspects of designing pages for the www)

I never insisted on technical skills, apart from being curious, as the technology skills required for most platforms these days are low level and can easily be taught.

The benefit of someone with a strong customer service background is that they are more likely to have natural empathy. This means that when they are tasked with preparing content on a webpage/class page they have the ability to view content from the user’s perspective. 

Earlier this week I came across this infuriating tweet from a Dad reflecting on his experience of “remote teaching”:  

Earlier this week I came across this infuriating tweet from a Dad reflecting on his experience of “remote teaching”:  

This is clearly a teacher whose School has turned on Google Classroom just expecting that alone will deliver “remote learning”. This is a teacher I suspect that has received no training in this transition and who has no understanding of the platform he is using, or its capabilities. It’s situations exactly like this one that gives online learning a bad name. Judging by the number of likes and retweets these tweets received I’d say this parent is not alone. 

If we look at this from a customer service perspective, the school is providing a service to the community, so they need to think about what it will do for them, why it does it, how it does it and then communicate this to them. 

My personal mantra when it comes to providing Good Service is to offer transparency and always ‘under-promise and over-deliver. As an example, last week I went to have my car serviced and was offered a coffee and told at worst it could take two hours. I had just set up my laptop and started writing this article when they came to me and I hadn’t even finished my coffee. I was thrilled to be out of there so quickly but what if they’d told me it would probably take 45mins and then it had taken 45mins- Meh! My mood may not have been quite so joyous.

For schools, teachers, and principals if you entered lockdown telling parents that you will deliver an LMS platform, online learning and teachers delivering content Mon-Fri 8.30am-3.30pm each day, your parents are now writing to the newspapers, lodging complaints and asking for refunds on their fees. If you instead had been more transparent and explained the situation of where you were with technology, infrastructure, staff training and the steps you were planning to take over the oncoming weeks and how it would impact each stakeholder, you would get a far greater level of understanding and support for the transition. Public Relations 101- Transparency and honesty builds trust!

People naturally will have expectations based on previous experience and for schools, the LMS, the Parent Portal and the level of teacher content is always compared between schools. These days most parents would assume that they could enrol their child into a school online, pay school fees in bitcoin and receive all school reports electronically, but this simply isn’t the case in many schools. Our aim as service providers is to listen to our customers, know what they need before they need it and provide the answer via the fewest steps possible. 

In my office for years I had the following poster on the board:

Should I use a QR code

It came as a result of a teacher attending professional development and discovering QR codes for the first time. She came to me for help uploading all the files she wanted to share with parents behind QR codes because it would be more fun and show them how innovative and tech-savvy she was. 

It was left to me to explain that 

  1. perhaps only 40% of her audience would know what to do with it and have a ‘reader’ on their phone ready to go
  2. By 2017 that technology was already very “old” and not well adopted technology and 
  3. Parents would not appreciate that a step that used to take them 1 simple click would now mean ensuring they had software installed, ensuring that they had their phone in their hand each time they accessed the page and they’d have to scan the code to get to the same point as a simple link with just one click. 

Good service requires as few steps as possible to complete…but wait there’s more: 

  • Treat your LMS, or website, homepage as your reception area. Remember it’s the first place you enter, it’s the first place you have an interaction and the first place you look for signage of where to go next. It is where impressions are made.
  • Don’t use internal acronyms, or tech or education speak. Remember when your community members (parents/students/staff) first interact with you they may not have any idea what SAC’s, MCEETYA, UDL, PBL, ACARA, ESL, NDIS, LOTE, PL/PD or BYOD/BYOT all stand for, let alone the difference between remote, flipped, blended and online learning. 
  • Use natural language or ensure you provide definitions. Whilst the accounts team might call it the “expenses reimbursement” form, a teacher will be far more likely to search for “how do I get a refund”, “how do I get my money back”. Metatag all your files with appropriate, meaningful, natural and logical language. Create your search terms as verbs i.e. what action do I need to do?
  • Be consistent in your delivery. The language and the visual style needs to be consistent which is why I recommend you have one or two people setting up your portal/LMS and their templates to begin with. Every page in your school LMS/Portal should use the same font, size, colour, the same branding, the exact same place for course outlines, assessment tasks, content, teacher greeting/update/contact details etc. We all quickly grow accustomed to usage patterns online and every break in consistency is a break in trust.
  • There’s the old adage of “What gets measured, gets done”. I’ve just worked with a school IT team who had a gamified helpdesk platform. This meant there was a competition within the department and a race to be the first to assist and respond to logged calls – just brilliant!
  • Inclusion is also a necessity when designing your services and a lack of diversity within your team will mean you have a lack of inclusion in your service. 
  • Finally, I’m sure each and everyone one of us has spent frustrating minutes on a website trying to locate a buried phone number, email or ‘contact us’ form. A good service will always provide an easy path to communicate with a human. On your internal platforms (LMS & Parent Portal) always have a “Help” link on every page offering your end users a range of help solutions including ways of contacting you directly.

In discussions with clients, I talk about the “barriers” users have to hurdle to get the desired outcome. The more barriers we remove, the more likely people will complete a task. A good example is a form…after three fields, for every additional field someone needs to fill in, you will dissuade a percentage of your users from completing the form (assuming the same motivation for all). When someone comes in contact with your school, or organisation, and they discover that they can achieve all that they want to achieve and with the fewest steps possible then that is good customer service.

If you’d like to do further reading on this topic the reference that has inspired my post comes from a recent read:  “Good Services-how to design services that work” by Lou Downe. 

This post is also in memory of the incredible visionary and digital transformation specialist, Paul Shetler, from whom I learnt so much the few times our paths crossed and who sadly passed away in February, aged 59.