Important vs Urgent Skills

Andrew_Douch_croppedAndrew Douch is an independent education technology expert with 22 years’ classroom experience. He has won numerous awards for his work with emerging technologies in education, including the Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Teacher of the Year. His mantra is ‘You don’t need to be very good with technology to do very good things with technology’.

This is the first generation of STEM teachers who must choose between teaching important skills and teaching urgent skills.  In previous generations, there was no difference. The important skills were the urgent skills. Now there is a fork in the road, which presents a threshold challenge to STEM teachers in 2017.

“Importance” is about how much something matters. “Urgency” is about how soon it matters. In previous generations, it was understood that the more knowledge students had when leaving school, the better their career prospects. The urgency of exam preparation incentivised students to learn the important skills that would later underpin their career success. But that is no longer true.

There is a growing, collective understanding among STEM teachers that the skills which prepared yesterday’s students to thrive in a knowledge economy are inadequate preparation for today’s students. As information continues to be commoditised and processes automated, retaining knowledge is less important than it once was. It is still helpful for a student to know the first 20 elements of the periodic table, but failing to know them is a much smaller handicap than it was 20 years ago. After all, you can ask Siri what the atomic mass of copper is, should you ever need that information.

I’m not saying (as some do) that knowledge has no value, nor that looking something up (no matter how efficiently) is as good as remembering it. If students are ignorant on a topic, they have no filter through which to sift new information. In a “post-truth” world, critical thinking is more valuable than ever and critical thinking is problematic for someone who lacks the context that knowledge affords. Nevertheless, YouTube is a pretty effective knowledge prosthesis.

Creativity, problem-solving, resourcefulness, computational thinking… these are skills that have always been valuable but are now at a premium! Teachers get this. Every time I mention it in a presentation I notice teachers nodding. But there seems to be a disconnect between that understanding and the way many teachers plan their classes. Many of us still spend a large portion of our class time teaching knowledge. Why? Because in November students will sit an exam to answer questions that in any other context would be googleable! If we have failed to prepare them for that we will have let them down. We’ll not have done any favours for our own reputation, either! Personally, I don’t think exams effectively measure student learning in any meaningful way in 2017. But as a science teacher I have no influence over the State’s assessment processes (“God grant me the serenity…”). For as long as exams are the gate through which students must enter to pursue a STEM career, we need to hold that gate open for them.

Therein lies the dilemma we face in 2017. Do we spend our valuable class time on the most important or the most urgent things? Do we equip our students with the skills that will matter to them most, or those that will matter to them first? Do we prepare them to thrive in the economy of the future, or to thrive in the exams of November?

I don’t think we can neglect either! But clearly there is insufficient time to do both.

Since we are unlikely to be given more time, we need to make more efficient use of the time we have.

A common criticism of the flipped classroom model is that it is still a fundamentally didactic, teacher-centred approach. I don’t disagree with that – although if done well, I do think that it is much more student-centred than it might seem. Nevertheless, it is not my aim in this article to discuss different approaches to the flipped classroom model, how to do it well, nor to explain how it can be student-focussed. The point I want to make in this article, rather, is that it is much more efficient than traditional approaches. By taking didactic learning out of the classroom, class time is reclaimed for more “important” learning tasks, those which prepare students for the economy of their future. At the same time, it allows students to cover the “urgent” content they need for exams much more efficiently. They can, for example, listen to a lesson at double speed, while multi-tasking it with washing the dishes (or some other mindless chore), thereby saving precious at-desk study hours for other tasks. It also makes that kind of learning demonstrably more effective.

In many ways, I think the term “flipped learning” does a disservice to the concept of flipped learning by implying that it is the wrong-way-round. On the contrary, I think it should be the new normal – at least until we do away with high-stakes standardised testing.

Nobody races down to the bank during lunchtime any more, to withdraw cash during bank hours. Instead, we enjoy lunch with our colleagues in the staffroom. Then we multi-task cash-withdrawal with our grocery shopping that evening when the bank is closed. We don’t call it “flipped banking” – but that is what we are doing! We are using technology to time-shift a necessary, “urgent” errand to make more efficient use of our time, while also reclaiming our lunch time to rest and cultivate rapport with colleagues – both of which, are important but not urgent.

This blog has been re-published with the permission of Andrew Douch.

H5P Moodle Plugin – Tips for getting started

The H5P Moodle plugin is here! It is still quite a new plugin, but has excellent functionality!

See the H5P website for information about the amazing interactive options.

When you first download the plugin, you will need to install the content types that you want to use. Here are some tips that may help you get going.

Get familiar with the options

02There are heaps of content types available to use! Some of the most popular are:

  • Interactive video
  • Course presentation
  • Accordion
  • Chart
  • Find multiple hotspots
  • Drag and drop
  • Memory game
  • Timeline

You would be wise to check these out at the H5P web site before downloading them into your Moodle site. There are heaps of them and the list is growing…

How large is your site?

Do you have a small number of people creating content on your site – or maybe it’s just you?

If so, then you can have fun and download content types as you need them!

If you have a larger site, then you may want to restrict the number of activity types. The main reason for this is that it could be overwhelming for your course creators if there are too many options to start with.

You may decide to install all of them, it’s your call.

Note: Once a content type is uploaded there is currently no option to remove it.

The delete option has not been implemented in the Moodle H5P plugin as yet. If required, you can hide content types from your teachers (see instructions below).

Downloading content types

Many content type activities are available for you to install. To access these:

  1. Go to a course and turn on editing
  2. Add an H5P activity
  3. Click on the Editor options dropdown
  4. Click on All
  5. Click on Get to download the content type you require
  6. Go to [your site name]/mod/hvp/library_list.php
  7. Notice that the option is in the list

Don’t forget – once the content type is uploaded, there is currently no option to remove it.

03

Hiding installed content types

Do you want to prevent other content types from being downloaded?

  1. Go to [your Moodle URL]/admin/settings.php?section=modsettinghvp
    • Download button = never show
    • Use H5P Hub = untick
  2. Once these settings are in place, even you will not be able to install content types using the method described above. You will need to download the plugin from the H5P site and upload it to your Moodle site from [your Moodle URL]/mod/hvp/library_list.php. Of course you could temporarily reverse steps 1 and 2 above instead.

04

Prevent editing teachers from using particular content types

Have you downloaded a content type that you don’t want your teachers to see?
05If you want to restrict your editing teachers from using particular content types that are downloaded on your site:

  1. Go to [your Moodle URL]/mod/hvp/library_list.php and tick the Restricted box for the activities that you do not want used
  2. Go to the permissions for an Editing Teacher
  3. Search for H5P
  4. Use restricted libraries = Not set

Note: the teacher can see other content types but cannot download them. This may be frustrating or confusing for the teacher.

Limitations

Please note – there are concerns with using H5P:

  1. It is currently possible for people with programming skills to cheat in H5P interactions and obtain the full score without knowing the correct answers. H5P activities should not be used for exams or similar. I recommend you use the Moodle quiz instead.
  2. A content type that you install could inadvertently have content that may harm your site. As Administrator, you should know that the security of your Moodle site may rely on the ability of a third party to audit and sanitise HTML5/JavaScript code that may be uncontrollably installed with H5P. Admins are strongly advised to get familiar with the permission/restriction system of the plugin and pay attention to the plugin configuration.

Possible issues you may come up against

Issue Possible solution
You can’t restrict the activities? Check your permissions. mod/hvp:restrictlibraries should = Allow

06

You can’t download all the activities? Check your permissions. mod/hvp:updatelibraries should = Allow

07

You can’t download the Questionnaire? If you go to [your Moodle URL]/admin/settings.php?section=modsettinghvp, you can see that this requires a Learning Record Store to function properly.

Tracking student progress through a course

bernadette-parry-headshot Bernadette Parry is the Client Support Coordinator at eWorks. Her role involves juggling all sorts of client-focused tasks including start-up TVC training, advanced Moodle training and support services. A self-confessed Moodle ‘geek’, Bernadette loves to discover new ways to navigate and make the most of Moodle and online facilitation. Today Bernadette offers a short comparison of two fantastic tools to track student progress.

Detailing student progress in your online courses is not only a great tool to assist with your student’s time management by allowing them to prepare for upcoming tasks, but it is also a valuable resource for teachers to track their students progress and identify student who may no longer be engaged in the course.

There are two excellent options for showing student progress in Moodle:

  • Course Completion Status block
  • Completion Progress block (which is replacing the Progress Bar block)

The Course Completion Status block is particularly useful for teachers to track completion of activities and you can download the data into a spreadsheet.

Features of the Course Completion Status block include:

  • Select the activities you want to track
  • Moodle automatically ticks off the activities as the student completes them
  • Teacher overview has a view of student progress – and if any students are falling behind
  • Easily see students who have completed – a Course complete column gets ticked when the student has completed all of these activities
  • Students can see what they need to complete, when it is due, and what has been completed
  • Filter names displayed, e.g. students with first name starting with B and surname starting with G
  • Downloadable as a spreadsheet

img_tracking_01

Note: For the Course Completion Status block to work, you first need to go to Administration> Course administration> Course completion and select the activities to be included.

The Completion Progress block is a fantastic, time-management, visual block – particularly helpful for your students.

The Completion Progress block features include:

  1. More visual and a great option for your students to see what they need to complete
  2. Students can use it as a time-management tool
  3. The teacher overview has a view of student progress – easily see if any students are falling behind
  4. Automatically adds all activities that have completion settings – you can easily remove any that you don’t want
  5. As a teacher, there is an option to select particular student/students and send them a message if required. This is a great option if you notice that there are some overdue assignments, etc.
  6. Select one particular student to see their progress
  7. No option to download the Completion Progress block information.

img_tracking_02

Both are excellent options for students and teachers to see progress through a course, but there are some points of difference:

  • Course completion status block:
    • More options available for showing completion – course grade, etc
    • Can download results in a spreadsheet
  • Completion progress bar:
    • Visually appealing
    • Easier to set up (just create it and it auto fills with activities!)
    • Teachers can easily send messages to students

Why students still need knowledge when anything can be Googled

Andrew_Douch_croppedAndrew Douch is an independent education technology expert with 22 years’ classroom experience. He has won numerous awards for his work with emerging technologies in education, including the Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Teacher of the Year. His mantra is ‘You don’t need to be very good with technology to do very good things with technology’.

In my enthusiasm to explain why teachers should be spending more time with their students working at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy, I have often pointed out the fact that knowledge has falling value. I stand by that statement. Google is a pretty good knowledge prosthesis. A head full of knowledge is unlikely to get you a job any more. The skills that make a person valuable now are the so called “soft skills” – problem-solving skills, entrepreneurship, computational thinking skills, presentation skills, communication skills, an eye for design and leadership skills. Those skills are hard to automate and you can’t easily google them. In 2017 a head full of facts is only valuable at trivia nights. Oh! – and in exams.

But in my effort to point out that the value of knowledge is falling, I have sometimes been misunderstood to be saying that the importance of knowledge is falling. On the contrary. In many ways the importance of knowledge is rising!

Every year the Oxford Dictionary announces their word of the year; a word that has entered the public vocabulary in a profound way. In 2013, for example, the word of the year was “Selfie”. Can you guess what the word of the year was in 2016?

“Post-truth”.

“You can’t believe everything you read in the papers” is a saying that long predates the internet. But the saying is doubly true now. You definitely can’t believe everything you read on the internet. As the value of knowledge has fallen over the past two decades, it has taken trustworthiness down with it. That’s the downside of the internet giving everyone a voice. There are now lots of unedited voices being exercised.

A student without knowledge in a subject, has no filter through which to sift new information. In a post-truth world, knowledge is more important than ever – it’s just not what employers will be basing their hiring decisions on.

This blog has been re-published with the permission of Andrew Douch.