So this post title is a play on my jumping back into both integrated ICT use in my room as well as blogging but also a play on the name of the tool I am using – Studyladder.
First about me – after a hectic year of ICT use in 2014 involving a new 1:1 iPad program at my school, I’ve taken a real step back from ICT integration this year, and gotten back to the basics of teaching. I won’t lie, there were students in my new class disappointed about this, with my reputation as the techie teacher preceding me, but I’m a firm believer in tech use not being tech-centric. That is, the tech should support the learning and if it doesn’t , it shouldn’t be used. I felt with the iPads last year there was a pressure to show that they were worthwhile and some of what I did pushed into the ‘using tech for its own sake’ field and that made me uncomfortable. So this year I have consciously tried to use ICT only if there is a clear advantage for the students in doing so. Its been a bit of a reset, really.
So this study ladder thing. I am using it as a basis for Mathematics homework. I can set modules for different students and monitor their performance in those modules. I can see how many times they have attempted their work, and how their results have changed through these attempts. It certainly fits my criteria of tech use as it allows functionality that would not be possible without it.
I have also started developing individual blogs for my students and through those will start delving back into more regular tech enhancement.
So again, school and kids have bumped my blogging down the ladder of priorities, as they should. Reports, birthdays and life in general have been in the front seat, but also has been a new tool that I have been taking for a spin in the classroom. Showbie is an app that I have been familiar with for a long time, and was even part of our workflow solutions this year as we introduced the 1:1 iPad program. It didn’t stay long in the forefront of our day to day working, but this term I have used it again, to great success.
I have been able to guide my students through the writing of historical fiction this term, satisfying the MYP subjects of Design, Individuals and Societies and Language and Literature, as well as the Australian Curriculum content outcomes for History (different perspectives). I have been teaching this in discreet chunks, lesson by lesson eg Step 1 was to find an Australian historical event. Step 2, think of a unique perspective Step 3, outline key historical tidbits etc. This is all well and good but because of constant student absences due to music and other co-curricular considerations, students often miss these discreet teachable moments.
With Showbie, I am able to record instructional materials and individually monitor the progress of individual students throughout the task. I can digitally annotate their works in progress and provide verbal feedback too. Once I turned off the email notifications (which came thick and fast everytime one of the 50 Year 6s updated their work, which was often) I found the app incredible in its capacity to allow me oversight of the students work. I still conference with the students 1:1, but this digital record of their progress is valuable and something I will integrate into my digital toolkit moving forward.
As part of our 1:1 iPad program, our Year 6 team are constantly reviewing the best practices for running our learning environments. Today I have come up with the term DAFA (Digital Anecdotal Formative Assessments). I got the idea from Andy Peartree (@anderspearz) who was using the app Explain Everything in his Maths group. I saw the students using the app to demonstrate their learning. They were engaged with the process and the Maths itself was not being compromised.
I decided to adopt the practice myself, but thought that I could formalise it to provide me with legitimate formative assessment. My maths class has just finished looking at converting fractions, to varying levels of success. I created a task on Edmodo asking my students to create an Explain Everything showing their understanding. I was able to quickly see who really understood the process without the need to troll through all their workbooks to establish their competence.
This is not a new process by any means, and I must stress the role my colleagues Andy and Jade in beginning this process. However, by formalising DAFA as a formal part of our teaching strategy, we have actively used technology to enhance our teaching.
I have seen two different items on the Internet recently, and I have formed a link between the two. I’ll pop them here and let you see if you can find the link…
First, this image that turned up on my Facebook feed
very clever stuff, and certainly the type of thing I like seeing on my feed when I am desperately seeking distraction from reality. Second, this video that came up in my Twitter feed (via @SunnySouth12)
It’s amazing what kids can do if we give them the chance, isn’t it?
Can you think of the link? What connected these two things in my mind was the old maxim, less is more. Now, the Navy officer is hardly someone to idolise, but his laziness showed there is always more than one way to solve a problem. I would argue that the gross effort required to reroute a ship, as opposed to shifting oneself down the bench a little negates the creative effort, but it cannot be denied that creativity is present.
The clip involves children engaging in Art activities, and clearly demonstrates the nature of children to engage their creativity more freely when they feel there is no consequence for ‘getting it wrong’.
This got me thinking about my students – how much amazing material are they not producing, because they are afraid that it will be ‘wrong’? Hopefully very little, as I try to make my kids feel comfortable in that regard, but a lot can be said for task design. How can I design my instructions to students so that it maximises their inclination to be creative? Do I get too caught up in multiple curriculum considerations, that I lose sight of the forest through the trees? This is going to be a goal of mine, moving forward.
I’d love to hear from anyone who has given this extensive thought.
I’ve never been taught explicitly how to program or code. Over the years I have developed my skills as necessary to maintain and share teaching and learning materials. I’ve managed to learn what I need to know as I need it, and then I inevitably forget it. I have also (sheepishly) used a similar approach in teaching these topics to my students. I have shown then what they need for a task and they have no doubt also forgotten the skills.
With the new Digital Technologies curriculum I now have scope to explicitly teach computational thinking to my students. I will be using the Scratch program in the first instance, as I recall finding it useful myself. This is the realisation that inspired this post – I only know a little bit more than my students. Now, the gap is still very wide, but it is closer than I am familiar with. What it will allow me to do though, is to be more immersed in the learning process that I am offering my students, as it will be much more relevant to me. I will have a greater appreciation of what they a re going through. This is something that I have not experienced for a while as a teacher, and to be truthful, is something that I find quite invigorating.
Tonight’s #ozprimschchat stayed on the theme of @AITSL Standards and discussed Standard 6: Engage in Professional Learnin. As usual, this is topical for me because our school has reinvigorated its Professional Learning Program this year with all staff undergoing PLPs that are directly aligned with AITSL.
While I’ll share my personal progress with this at another time, I find this standard ‘easy’ to achieve because of my passion for Standard 7: Engage Professionally with Colleagues, Parents/Carers and the Community. I find it easy to engage with professional networks, something which has reshaped my career since I discovered Twitter in 2008. This ability of mine to easily share and relate to others has been a massive benefit to me in my teaching, but especially since the introduction of the AITSL standards. Without ranting, I will quickly discuss the highlights of this evening’s chat.
What makes good Professional Learning?
My instant reply to this question was that it needs to be transformative. If we are not a different person when we leave, then nothing lasting has been gained. Discussion on this topic included notions of appropriateness to ability level, class size and length of the course. It looked at the benefit of professional discussions (Standard 7) as well as the despair of attending a PL event that was just not helpful. What rang true most of all is how discussion about this seamlessly led to the second topical highlight;
How is Professional Learning structured in a school?
Our school is (as mentioned above) taking its Professional Learning very seriously this year. All PL is aligned with Professional Learning Plans and staff are being challenged to look within their professional selves and map exactly where they choose to professionally grow. Alongside this is a new initiative to establish Staff Run Professional Learning Days that will replace whole staff sessions at the start of terms. The intention is twofold; Firstly, to take advantage of the expertise and passion that staff have by allowing them to teach their peers; Secondly, to allow staff through this process to exhibit leadership without defined roles; and thirdly, to build a greater culture of sharing professionally amongst staff. OK that’s three, but I could probably keep reeling them off…
The overwhelming concensus from the chat is that Professional Learning works best in a school when there are professional relationships involved. Since learning is a function of social interactions, this makes not only good psychological sense, but it makes things nicer in the workplace. I can categorically state without reservation that a teacher with confidence in the trusting relationships they have with both heir peers and leaders is going to be better than one without.
This paper was also shared and discusses the connection between professional learning and effective teaching practice.
Musings for tonight are over so feel free to peruse tonight’s chat here as well as below.
Tonight’s #ozprimschchat was the first for 2014 and focussed on AITSL Standard 1 ‘Know Students and How They Learn’. The great appeal in tonight’s experience is not in my return to organised chats for 2014, but the subject matter involved. Most topics covered related directly to my teaching but tonight was extremely topical as we as a staff are undergoing professional reflections that align conveniently with the AITSL Standards that we need to meet for accreditation. I have spent the last few week pondering my place on the seven rubrics and have come to the conclusion that the language can be ambiguous and vague and really serves to make me doubt my abilities. Not to say that I am not confident as a teacher – far from it. I am talking about whether that means I am proficient, highly accomplished, lead or just at a graduate level.
Tonight’s chat put a lot of things in perspective. As always, it served to validate my thoughts about a topic. My interpretation of Standard 1 is shared by many around Australia, and this gives me a boost. I feel affirmed in my approach to not only mapping myself against Standard 1, but all of them. It also got me thinking (again) about classroom practices. One of the beautiful thing about topic chats are the tangent discussions that one finds themselves in from time to time. One of these was on the ability of the learning environment to transform and invigorate learning. Again, my views are mirrored by others and this helps. (At the end of the day though, I am influenced primarily by my students in these areas). Thirdly, I have championed the Genius Hour concept at my school and along with Jade and Andy (my Year 6 buddies) we have made it a highlight of our weekly timetable. Again, the benefits we see from our students are the primary motivator but its also nice to hear other on tonight’s chat advocating its awesomeness as well.
Click the Play button in the lower left of the object to play through the tweets or click here to peruse as a list.
In the last 24 hours I participated in three twitter chats; my regular #ozprimschchat, my less regular #mypchat and a special custom made #sasvisionyear6. All three represent a different type of professional learning which I will discuss here.
This is a chat that I try to participate in regularly, and have discussed previously here and here. Last night the topic was a review of the year; The Good the Bad and lets not tweet about the ugly. Clever, I know.
#MYPchat I’m new to both teaching the MYP so even newer to active participation in this chat – I have been somewhat of a lurker. Last night however, I feel I made my first genuine contributions to the discussion about the new subject guides.
As part of publicising our school’s new Vision, we were tasked with discussing how we would make it visible in our classrooms next year. We decided to host a mock twitter chat, with the feed showing to the other staff. It allowed us to share the benefits of twitter chats in general as well as communicate our ideas surrounding the task.
#ozprimschchat last night discussed Learning Spaces. I am looking into this a lot at the moment. I have gradually this year been getting rid of tables and chairs and bringing couches, cushions and benches into my classroom. I have noticed a marked improvement in both engagement and motivation amongst my students, which coupled with a 1:1 tablet program next year is motivating me to do more in this area.
This is my current Learning Space
This is a storify of the twitter chat.
This video came across my social media today and it has gotten me thinking. Have a look (even for a bit) before you read on;
Yes, this is the Blue Eye Brown Eye lady, Jane Elliot continuing her quest to truly allow students to appreciate the presence of racism in the world. It reminded me of a class in my undergrad course called Social Contexts of Education. It explored the role of education as an institution and more relevantly for this topic, forced me to come to terms with my whiteness. I was brought up well by my parents and honestly believed I was not a racist person. I’m not, and I wasn’t, but what I learned in this course was to understand that I could never really understand discrimination, because as a white middle class male, I have always been pretty much exempt from it. Despite my empathy, it never happened to me.
The experience shown in the video above is the type of thing that I think everyone should go through to understand what it means to be treated differently. I’m getting to my point here: How much do we push our students to understand the experiences of others in the world? While the above practice is extreme, as was the original blue eye brown eye was, it is important to give our students an education not only of the Standardised Testing subjects, but of how to be a global citizen.
I’m not saying we need to subject students to the harsh realities of the world before they are ready for it, but I do believe that the best way to begin this process is to put students into situations where they feel uncomfortable. We all know about zones of proximal development, and that it is important to extend students out of their comfort zone. Sometimes though, we need to push that little bit further to really let students feel that things are different once they move out of their youthful bubbles of familiarity. Of course this can be done sensitively and with due consideration of individual differences.
When was the last time you gave your students the opportunity to be uncomfortable?
A closing quote from Jane Elliot
“No. You don’t come back in here until you’ve apologized to every person in this room because you just exercised a freedom that none of these people of color have. When these people of color get tired of racism, they can’t just walk out because there’s no place in this country where they aren’t going to be exposed to racism. They can’t even stay in their own homes and not be exposed to racism if they turn on their television. But you, as a white female, when you get tired of being judged and treated unfairly on the basis of your eye color, you can walk out that door, and you know it won’t happen out there. You exercised a freedom they don’t have. If you’re going to be in here, you’re going to apologize to every black person in this room. And do it now … and every person of color.”