Aug 25

Women in Technology Careers

I published an article on our university website yesterday about women in tech careers. You know, our fastest growing industry? :0) Well, the challenge we are facing is that we don’t have enough people to meet the demands of industry.

There was a recent study, carried out in Silicon Valley – the tech centre of the world. Over 200 women were asked about their experiences as a woman in the technology industry and the results are worrying.

Not only did the survey unearth some of the gender challenges we know exist – “47% have been asked to do lower-level tasks that male colleagues are not asked to do (e.g., note-taking, ordering food, etc.)[source]”

But:
“66% felt excluded from key social/networking opportunities because of gender” [source].

This means less opportunities for growth, career development or creating helpful networks. This is a major problem.

Not just for those women currently in Silicon Valley, but for all our daughters.

  • How many female tech engineers does your daughter know about?
  • How many times have you watched a tv show or YouTube video showing women technology experts?
  • How many times have YOU given up trying to fix a tech problem, only to say “Let’s just wait til your dad gets home”?

That last one is a doozy. (It’s hard to be the fixer of everything!) But the messages we are sending to our daughters start early, are long-lasting and can impact on who she thinks she can become.

It’s worth having a look at the full Elephant in the Valley report – it’s an infographic so not hard to read and will only take a few minutes.

In the meantime, here are a few videos to help you support your daughter to learn that women in tech are not only vital – She can be a leader of them!

And here are two good articles for you to read!

Why Men Need To Champion Women In The Tech Industry

Why are there so few women in tech? The truth behind the Google memo

Have a great week!

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Mar 12

What’s on the Horizon for our kids in schools?

There’s a great report that gets released every year called the ‘Horizon Report‘. It focuses on technology use in education and makes predictions – that are often incredibly accurate.

The 2016 K-12 Report makes predictions for the short, medium and longer term.

Here’s the overview from here:

 

So, if this is accurate, by 2020, our children in schools could be learning with and through ‘Wearable Technology’ and ‘Artifical Intelligence’. I wonder what that will look like!

 

Jun 14

Why our classrooms shouldn’t look like The Simpsons

So I live and work in Australia. I’ve lived and worked in the UK, France and the USA. And one of the things that annoys me most is the way that school classrooms are shown in the media. TV shows like  The Simpsons – as much as I love it – aren’t helping us make change in schools. It’s not just the Simpsons of course. Pretty much anytime you see a primary school classroom on TV it’s the same. All the kids sat in rows, facing the teacher.
Why our classrooms shouldn't be like the Simpsons
But that’s now how our classrooms should be run these days. This old-fashioned (nearly typed ‘old school’!) portrayal of our classrooms is making it trickier for important changes to happen. Changes like moving away from teacher-focused, ‘stand up the front and listen to me tell you things’ way of teaching. We call this ‘teacher-directed’ learning. The teacher holds all the knowledge and lets the kids know when they are allowed to learn new things. This is the kind of teaching that can be good for some kids. And its definitely good for all kids some of the time…sometimes kids ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ and so we have to help them see where their gaps are.
Student-centred learning though is what we are looking for in our schools today. This looks…well, very different. And different in each classroom and each day. Actually it doesn’t matter what it looks like as long as it’s focused on understanding what each child needs to learn – not just page 38 of the textbook because yesterday we did page 37. This is probably controversial to some people but I have to say I’m not sure i care. I want education in our primary schools to look like dynamic spaces where each child gets to have a say in their learning (not IF they learn but HOW they learn). I want them to be able to revisit things when they don’t get something or have options to learn in different ways through conversations, discussions, videos, modelling, drawing and any other way that helps them learn.
If you think back to your school education, were you interested and excited all the time? Did you love it when the teacher stood up the front and ‘told’ you facts and expected you to copy from the board?
I did and I didn’t learn much at all that way. I always had to go home and re-write my notes, re think the answers and then ask more question (usually of my friends as my teacher wasn’t available for questions!).
In Australia we are seeing more and more schools move to student-centred learning. Perhaps its different in the USA. Maybe that’s why so many TV classrooms still look like the Simpsons. Individual desks (to stop chatting), Lined up facing the front (all the better to watch the teacher and copy from the board). We do get a lot of USA TV in Oz. But this one little thing – representing classrooms as if they haven’t changed since the 1960s really bothers me. How can we get good learning going in our schools if we rely and reinforce these ways of teaching and learning.
That’s my rant for the day…what do you think?
Jun 09

Why our classrooms shouldn’t look like The Simpsons…

So I live and work in Australia. I’ve lived and worked in the UK, France and the USA. And one of the things that annoys me most is the way that school classrooms are shown in the media. And shows like The Simpsons – as much as I love it – aren’t helping us make change in schools. It’s not just the Simpsons of course. Pretty much anytime you see a primary school classroom on TV it’s the same. All the kids sat in rows, facing the teacher.
Why our classrooms shouldn't be like the Simpsons
But that’s not how our classrooms should be run these days. This old-fashioned (nearly typed ‘old school’!) portrayal of our classrooms is making it trickier for important changes to happen. Changes like moving away from teacher-focused, ‘stand up the front and listen to me tell you things’ way of teaching. We call this ‘teacher-directed’ learning. The teacher holds all the knowledge and lets the kids know when they are allowed to learn new things. This is the kind of teaching that can be good for some kids. And its definitely good for all kids some of the time…sometimes kids ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ and so we have to help them see where their gaps are.
Student-centred learning though is what we are looking for in our schools today. This looks…well, very different. And different in each classroom and each day. Actually it doesn’t matter what it looks like as long as it’s focused on understanding what each child needs to learn – not just page 38 of the textbook because yesterday we did page 37. This is probably controversial to some people but I have to say I’m not sure I care. I want education in our primary schools to be dynamic spaces where each child gets to have a say in their learning (not IF they learn but HOW they learn). I want them to be able to revisit things when they don’t get something or have options to learn in different ways through conversations, discussions, videos, modelling, drawing and any other way that helps them learn.
If you think back to your school education, were you interested and excited when teachers taught this way? Do you remember when the teacher stood up the front and ‘told’ you facts and expected you to copy from the board?
I do and I didn’t learn much at all that way. I always had to go home and re-write my notes, re think the answers and then ask more question (usually of my friends as my teacher wasn’t available for questions!).
In Australia we are seeing more and more schools move to student-centred learning. 
Perhaps its different in the USA. Maybe that’s why so many TV classrooms still look like the Simpsons. Individual desks (to stop chatting), lined up facing the front (all the better to watch the teacher and copy from the board). We do get a lot of USA TV in Oz. But this one little thing – representing classrooms as if they haven’t changed since the 1960s – really bothers me. How can we get good learning going in our schools if we rely and reinforce these ways of teaching and learning?
That’s my rant for the day…what do you think?

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Jun 02

How digital books can help your child to read!

There are lots of great apps for iPads but the ones I love the most are the interactive ones. A favourite series of apps is called Big Cat Stories. Just like a book series, there are several apps, each focused on a different story.
The one I’ve used most recently with kids from ages 4-6 is called Farmers’ Lunch ;0)
Big Cat Stories Interactive books

Collins Big Cat Stories

I love these apps as they offer a few different ways of ‘reading’. Your kids can read traditionally, or hear the text read out to them or even record their own voice to listen back to. It means that kids tend to engage more in what they are reading – and maybe pay attention a bit more too.
how digital books can help your child to read
Many of these interactive book apps also offer games and activities that help our kids read more closely or think more about what they are reading. Games like re-ordering the sentences to tell the story or adding in extra ‘scenes’ are activities we use at school all the time. We know it helps kids focus on understanding (not just ‘barking at text’) – and that’s what reading’s all about right?
how digital books can help your child to read
But don’t forget these apps are designed to be fun and engaging too. With a love of reading you can learn – pretty much – anything! Astronaut, zoo keeper, neurologist, journalist…for every job there is something that can be learned from reading, so let’s get our kids excited to read with multimedia books that let them create, learn and have FUN!
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Feb 25

5 Top Tips for Your Child’s New Technology

It’s that time of year when our kids are bringing home new technology. Maybe you paid for it or maybe it’s provided by the school (from your school fees of course!)
But it’s a tricky time, especially as they may know more than you about how to use it (you haven’t had a chance yet!) and they have had instructions from school about care and use too.

So my advice to parents is always to set some ground rules as soon as you can. Makes it easier on everyone in the long run. There are a few things you can do – besides talking to your child about what they are up to of course – to help things run a bit smoother.

Charging
All digital devices should be kept out of our kids bedrooms wherever possible. Charging should be done overnight in a shared family space. Maybe the kitchen bench or the office or family room. Check that devices are charged before you go to bed and you won’t have problems with complaints in the morning when you are running late and they’ve forgotten to charge it up. You also minimise the disruption to their sleep that the constantly pinging and flashing of laptops or tablets bring with them. If you do only one thing – make sure that there are NO devices in your kids’ rooms at night.

Get a filter
There are lots of great activities and resources online. And lots of not-so-nice stuff too. Make sure you protect your family as far as possible by setting up a filter. This ‘catches’ a lot of nasties at your modem, BEFORE it can be delivered to your child’s device. It’s not hard to set up. Instructions are here.

Ask lots of questions
Your kids will want to use their device all. the. time. It’s up to you to make sure you understand what they are doing. Kids are curious. They will click on links they shouldn’t and wander off topic (searching ‘Justin Beiber videos’ when they should be working on maths homework…). So we need to let them know that even know they are now in the online world, they haven’t left us behind. Even if you don’t know what they are talking bout, get the key words out of them (app name, website name) and google it. You have to learn this stuff too… Even better, get them to show you how their game/activity/resources work. Let them be the teachers for once and see them beam with pride :0)

No use in private spaces
Make sure that any time they are using their device, it’s in a space you can see them. You might not always be able to see the screen, but I’ll bet you can tell by their expressions and body language when they are doing something they shouldn’t be! If you are cooking dinner or working online yourself, have them near you. Ask questions and be interested and close by if they need help or support.

Get a proper bag for back support
So many kids carrying such heavy bags – and not computer devices but textbooks and sports gear and HUGE pencil cases (what is it with huge pencil cases!?!??). So we need to help them manage their bodies too. Most schools in Australia would have suggested backpacks for kids to use. These are usually ergonomic and better for our kids backs. They don’t have to cost a fortune but a good one is worth it – just compare the cost to 6 months worth of physio visits. The next step is to try and get your kids to carry it on both shoulders, with their heaviest items at the bottom. This is how the backpack is designed to be used. Yes, they may not think it’s the coolest but even if they ignore you at school, if you can get them walking from the bus stop with the backpack on two shoulders, it’s better than nothing…

 

New computers are exciting and kids generally love the way that digital devices let them learn. And with these few tips you can help them be safe, healthy and look after their new, expensive learning tool!
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Jan 16

Why can’t we just use desktop computers? Thinking about laptops and tablet computers in schools…

What will your kids be using at school this year? Laptops, desktops, tablets? Or maybe a combination of all three!

Last year I worked with over 300 schools, and one pattern that I noticed was the lack of desktop computers in classrooms.

Did this mean there wasn’t any technology in the school? Of course not! What it usually meant, when I started talking with the school leaders, was that desktop computers no longer met the needs of the teachers or the kids.

Schools seem to be, more and more, buying tablets (iPads or Android or Windows) or laptop computers.

Why? Well, desktops are a bit ‘bossy’ really. By that I mean that they dictate where kids will work (sat in a fixed place), and often (as there’s usually only a couple of them in each classroom) they dictate WHEN kids can work on them too. Teachers have to schedule times to ‘do computer work’ as they have less resources and limited space. It’s often pretty hard to put a group of 3 or 4 kids around a desktop computer – but it’s easier with a laptop that you can rotate and pass between team members.

If you’ve been a classroom helper or managed to get your kids to actually tell you about their day at school (!), then you might know that when we have desktops in our classrooms, it also makes us plan our teaching differently. Monday morning, 4 reading groups. One with the teacher, two on independent reading-response activities. One on the computer. Hmmmm….what can I use the computer for?
Maybe…??? Or perhaps….?

The ‘computer activity’ becomes something the teacher has to come up with – and often it’s about making sure the kids get a fair go at ‘using’ the computer rather than what they actually do with the computer. Having to schedule computer use this way can stop teachers asking ‘what does this child need to learn and what tools would help her learn?’. Computers are just a tool – and a computer activity may or may not be what they need to progress their learning this week – but if they are scheduled on the computers, on the computers they will be! (And it will be an activity that they can manage independently and alone in a corner of the room too.)

Now image the same classroom teacher but with laptops (or tablets) at her disposal.

Literacy planning for Monday: 4 groups, 4 different outcomes aimed for. Each group has a task to develop their reading skills at their own level. In Blue Group, Sammy can type her response up, that way she can get her ideas out without struggling with handwriting (we’ll work on that later today).For Simon in Green Group, he can work on those tricky meaning-making strategies with that website I found, then I can conference with him at the end to see how he went. Tom and Rebecca really should re-visit those spelling patterns from last week, they are in their text for this week so it won’t make sense for them unless they can read those. They can do that on their laptops….and so it goes.

Laptops and tablets allow teachers to make individual decisions about their students learning. Who needs what, when and how? Desktops that require kids (often) to sit in rows and work on the same task as the kids next to them don’t help develop individual skills. And push kids into a more forced ‘computer-time’ activity that is easy to manage and meets the expectation of ‘my kids used the computers this week’…

Of course, some teachers make desktops work and of course, some schools can’t afford to do away with desktops (although with so many schools leasing computers these days, it’s not really that much of a financial change to move to laptops). But from my experience, it’s rare that desktop computers are used to help our kids learn ‘at point of need’ – which is what I believe portable (laptops) and mobile (tablets) computers let us do.

So when that letter comes home from school announcing a laptop or tablet program – it’s not just about new technology that seems fancy or modern. It’s about making sure your child gets to learn what they need, when they need it – with a portable tool that they take with them for learning!

What does your school use? Have you asked them why lately?

Let us know what you think about laptops versus desktops!  Maybe school classrooms are very different where you live :0)

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Oct 13

What do teachers actually do?

I get asked a lot what teachers actually do. Well, I could give the sarcastic answer of ‘what don’t they do!?!, it’s not all 3pm finishes and school holidays you know!” But I’m not that rude :0). The real answer is that our main task as teachers is pedagogy. It’s the method and practice of teaching.

So just as biologists study life, and geologists study the earth. We study learning. That’s our job. More than that though teaching is about helping others learn by understanding how learning happens – literally how stuff happens in human brains to create knowledge and understanding. How do we look at a flower and are able to say “That’s a flower, it has roots to get water and leaves to catch sunlight. I know this because I saw another thing that looked similar and it was also called a flower.” How do our brains access that knowledge, connect that ‘fact’ to other similar facts and make a judgement. When it comes down to it, our brains are just muscle – highly complex and a huge mystery but a muscle. How does a muscle feel, learn, grow or have opinions. This is what we learn at University. How do we best help all children develop knowledge and understandings?

The most popular theory about how we learn is called Social-Constructivist theory. Fancy words. But it just means that learning happens with other people (socially) and is created through a group – literally for each other and with each other. The theory goes that we are constantly creating meaning about things by talking and observing and interacting with other people. These actions help us make sense of the world. This knowledge and understanding changes every time we interact with other people and get more ‘input’ that we compare to what we know or believe.

So all of that theory is just to say – that’s why working in teams or group projects or partner work is so important in schools. And why we know that rote learning things like times tables isn’t all our kids need to experience – it’s much, much more complex than that.

We need to support kids to learn from and with each other so that real learning happens.

A big thing I say regularly to the trainee-teachers I work with is:

Telling is not Teaching

And it’s not. We can’t tell someone something and have them turn that into knowledge in their heads. Brains don’t work that way. If we tell kids a fact, they will need time, examples, interaction and conversation before it becomes ‘fact’ for them. And then they will be constantly comparing that ‘fact’ to everything else they see and hear and do.

So that’s my little rant for the week – teaching is extremely complex and involves understanding how brains actually make sense of the world, which means that simply telling someone something is NOT teaching.

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Oct 09

If we turn off the device, do we turn off the child?

In the workshops I run with school leaders I do an activity that gets them to look at a lot of quotes around education and technology today. The idea is that they start talking about what’s possible in their schools – based on what the experts say we should be doing.

One of these quotes from Stephen Heppell is always, always controversial:

If we turn off the device, we turn off the child

What do you think? Is that true….?

For me, technology is a tool that supports learning – and it should be supporting good learning that is interactive, collaborative, student-centred, student-driven and focused on individual improvement, not on whole school score improvement.

i also think that if you do turn off the device and the child turns off, it reflects more on us as teachers – not the device! If we have a child in front of us and we lose their attention as soon as the iPads get put away, well, it’s not a favourable comparison is it? We lose to a piece of metal and silicone. Not great.

I think teachers today are MORE important than they ever have been.

Our kids have access to so much information and opinions. It’s up to teachers to help them sift through the endless data that they come across, decide what is valid or true and make sense of it for themselves in their world. Not an easy task.

Good teaching does this. A device is just a tool to get there – so if a good teacher turns off the device, the child shouldn’t really notice. Because a good teacher will use the device to support good learning and use the device when it’s going to add value to the learning.

What do you think? Should we let kids have devices ‘on’ all the time?

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Sep 25

Positive selfies – why we all need them!

I saw something at a school I was presenting at the other week. It was so great I had to share it here – Positive Selfies!

They had posters everywhere about Posotive Selfies. Love it. A simple idea really. Instead of sexting or sharing photos of friends not look their best for fun or even cyber-bullying by posting photos of others with nasty comments, just take a photo of you, looking like you. That’s it.

I love this for a couple of reasons, one is body image which I’ll talk more about below. The other is that the school isn’t trying an ‘abstinence’ approach to technology use. Telling teenagers not to take photos and post online isn’t going to work. If we stop it happening at school, it will happen at 3:30 when the bell rings. Embrace the technology I say :0) . Great idea!

Back to the body image stuff – the school seemed to be running ‘Positive Selfies’ as a competition. So you could enter your selfie photo online and the one that looked most like you in real-life would win an iTunes vouchers.

i was only at the school for a day (it’s in a country town), but at recess and lunch I saw lots of phones out and lots of photos being taken. How cool, right?

So here’s my thoughts, when was the last time we modelled this to our kids? I think as women we know the importance of having positive body image particularly around our kids but how is that translating to what we do online? Do we vet all the pics our kids want to post? Do we say “no way you’re posting that, look at my tummy in that one! Delete!!” ??

I know I have. It’s hard not to, right? Especially as we likely have more insight in to how the online world works than they do. And that means we have a sense of who will see that photo…

So from now on I’m going to ask a different question when someone posts a photo of me online. I’m going to ask: Who’s going to see this? Am I ok with the audience?

Letting our kids know that it’s the ‘who-sees-it’ that we are concerned about, rather than whether our chins are showing to their best advantage should mean I can demonstrate that sharing online means thinking more about the ‘audience’ and less about me. Cos I’m ok as I am thanks!

And just cos I don’t love a photo – which is just one moment in time – doesn’t mean the memory that we are sharing or the event or the people we are with are unimportant. Photos are really our memories these days and I want to have lots of great ones once i’m old and grey ;0)

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