Paul's Place of Musings and Insights

the reflections of a techno-meddling teacher


NAPLAN tomorrow!!!!!!

Said no one ever.

Yeah, not so much excitement at my end, I’m afraid. While I’ve got the inevitable opinion on NAPLAN and standardised testing in general (I’ve put some fun memes down below), I don’t want to soapbox (on this occasion), suffice it to say that my class and I are missing two Maths lessons, a Science lesson and an Inquiry session this week. And that means… well not much really. It’s not such a big deal given sports days, excursions et al that consistently push aside the ‘already overcrowded curriculum’ and add to the hidden curriculum that is so meaningful for students. Alongside things like life lessons learnt during schoolyard fights and social development and whatnot. The real parts of life that happen alongside formal education.

That’s what I’ve come to see NAPLAN as – an experience for the students. Like it or not, success in formal education means testing and ranking. If you do well in Year 12, you’ll get into uni and have options. Of course you can be extremely successful without a uni experience, it just gives you options. If that’s what you’re after.

We give our kids formative assessment before giving them summative ones – I see NAPLAN (in one way) as a formative experience for students, in preparation for the higher stakes tests, the ones that actually count, in high school. Sure they also provide valuable information to stakeholders about the standard achievement levels of students and schools, but we all know they are a snapshot, through a narrow lens, of just one part of the educational experience.

So with the talk around staff rooms this week on why NAPLAN is <insert opinion here> I like to think of it in a positive light and let my students enjoy the ride.

and just for fun…


Jumping up the ladder

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.


Fun Play

I’ve just acquired a box of Lego for my classroom. I’ve always been jealous of classes in huge younger years who have access to these little blocks and I’ve always thought about how I could use them in upper primary. Through a discount website (the kind that sells you stuff you generally don’t need) I picked up a box of 500 assorted bricks for a decent price.

This is the result:


The kids rushed to my side and the end of individual reading became a hub of creativity. Lines of conversation included
– make the pictures on the box
– no, make whatever you want
– let’s make the characters from Animal Farm (our novel study)
– gee, Mr Huebl, your building thing is amazing (I might have heard that in my own head)

I’m happy with the attitude the kids have had towards the blocks. I am mindful now of how to maximise the benefit if their use as well as making the use of them equitable.



#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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