Paul's Place of Musings and Insights

the reflections of a techno-meddling teacher


#ozprimschchat 27/2/14 AITSL Standard 4

Last night’s #ozprimschchat discussed AITSL Standards 4: Create and Maintain Supportive and Safe Learning Environments. Three main topics were discussed;

1. Student Engagement
The beginning of the chat explored what it meant for students to be engaged. The responses revolved mainly around the principles of inclusion and student enjoyment. The big idea I got from this part of the chat is that engaged students are able to articulate their learning. Other common responses were “Kids feel like they can be themselves – no pretence, no cover-up, just truly be themselves” (@Innov8rEduc8r); “they feel safe enough to praise achievements & share shortcomings.” (@WesHeberlein) and “The Ss look happy and often don’t want to finish tasks they are enjoying. They want to come back at lunch” (@VivienTuckerman)
In my eye, these types of replies spoke to more than the interest level of the students with whatever task they were undertaking. They represented the learning behavious of students who were involved and an integral part of their own learning. For me, this ownership goes beyond academics but also to the social and emotional domains. At the moment, it is particularly relevant to my Learning Space…

2. Learning Spaces
I have been a big advocate of dynamic learning spaces over the lasr couple of years. I have gradually been making my classroom less traditional by providing options for students with regards to where and how they work. This year, being lucky to have a 1:1 iPad program, we have taken away quite a lot of the desks and replaced them with couches, bean bags, cushions, stools and low desks that the students have embraced. There is still the ability for every student to have a chair and desk space (we make good use of bench space here) when needed, but on the whole they are left empty. While this is not for everyone, it suits the type of learning that we are doing with the mobile devices. It is important though to match the learning environment with the type of learning that is occurring. Learning Spaces are just part of the jigsaw – many elements contribute to a supportive and safe learning environment.

3. Safe and Ethical use of ICT
This is represented by Standard 4.5 and is something that I feel is delivered very well in my classroom. I teach students to respect one another and I model responsible use of ICT. We actually study a Unit of Inquiry in Year 6 called Digital Citizenship. Especially with the iPads this year, it is so vital that children understand the full ramifications of what using the Internet represents. It is more than an interface on a screen – it is connecting with others. This is a powerful concept that can often go over the heads of children. I see it as a responsibility of mine to enforce this idea and allow my students to understand that their real life is intertwined with their online life – they meld together to create a greater identity that will define them as people as they grow older.

The Storify of the chat can be viewed below of at this link. 




#ozprimschchat 13/2/14 AITSL Standard 1

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.




How sibling bickering helped me realise what’s been weighing me down.

This year I have before me a greater load of responsibilities than I have had in my whole career. In addition to being a Year 6 classroom teacher, I am also

  • a new dad;
  • undertaking a 1:1 rollout;
  • the Upper Primary Coordinator at my school;
  • tackling a Master’s Thesis; and
  • helping organise the ACEC 2014 conference here in Adelaide.

Each of these is a welcome addition to my life and I am full of passion and enthusiasm for them. But, I know that I cannot carry on as I have and hope to achieve my goals in all these pursuits. I don’t know where, but I recall an analogy that helps explain how folks can manage their lives fully.

Imagine you are a juggler. You are very good a juggling and you only ever use five balls. These balls represent different aspects of your life – family, friends, work, health and religion (I like to think of this as a general existential ball). The analogy goes that if every ball has the same weighting in your life, things will be a-OK. But, when one of the balls gets heavier or lighter, things can go haywire. Bigger balls come from extra responsibilities (promotions, new babies etc) and lighter balls come from neglect (working late, missing school pickups etc). Over the years I have pondered additional variables such as what the balls are made of, their size v weight etc and whether there is wind, but lets keep it simple….

So what I am saying here is that my juggling setup needs to change. Organically, this has manifested itself in me cutting out almost entirely my online professional networking practices. This is a loose term that I use in my head to explain all the extra ‘21st Century Professional Learning’ that I do outside of my job – twitter chats and sharing, blog reading etc. This aspect of my life is certainly an ‘addition’ and is perhaps one of those extra variables I pondered earlier.

So what’s weighing me down? I am giving all the time I need to my five balls, but I’m unsettled. I don’t feel in control. I am always thinking that I’m missing something. This is certainly true, as my experiences in these forums are made up in a very large way by making personal connections with others. I found myself really wondering what I was actually missing – I mean surely my relationships and interactions with my professional learning network should take a back seat to the five big balls? Then I saw this exchange between brothers online and something became quite clear: Some of our behaviours can satisfy multiple balls.

Sibling bickering

I need to point out straight up that I’ve met both these gents and I am familiar with their tongue and cheek ribbing of each other in public. These two gentlemen showed me that the five balls analogy is much more complex than I thought. My reading of this exchange is that life is not neatly split up into segments. It is certainly possible to engage in legitimate discussion about educational trends whilst also publicly ribbing your brother about his communication habits. Successful management of my life and obligations while achieving fulfilling experiences is going to be achieved by melding the balls together into one, and I perhaps bounce it rather than juggle it…(??) I mean, juggling takes concentration! If I am holding a ball made up of all my things, I have the opportunity to really appreciate what it is that makes up my life. If I can mix the different aspects of my life together there is no need to leave anything out.

I am my own proof when I make this point, now that I know what I am thinking about – as I write this I am letting my wife sleep in with the baby while I facilitate the recreation of Peter Pan. By this I mean that my eldest is swanning about happily in her Peter Pan costume, while Bernard (our tolerant spaniel) plays concurrently the part of Cpt Hook, Smee and the three Darling children. Good Times. I could not however be managing the marking of an essay with this Sunday morning bliss – my attention would need to be fully on the student work, and not half with me and half supervising Neverland.


What I need and I suspect we all need, is a reminder that some parts of our lives are compatible. What the Couros boys and I realise is that awareness of all aspects of our lives will allow us to instinctively manage everything adequately. I am now off to engage fully with the pancakes that my daughter and I mixed up towards the bottom of paragraph 4.

What strategies do you use to manage your busy life?

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