Archive for the 'Staff Training' Category

Put The Spoon Away

True story.

Names not used and context changed to protect those who need protection.

Leader in a school sends out email to primary school staff informing them about the new Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, and includes a link to the website. Receives an email back from staff member complaining that the link doesn’t work and could the correct one be emailed back out.

When will some teachers give up the expectation to be spoon fed everything? It literally takes less than a minute to type in “aitsl teacher standards” into Google, click on the first link and navigate the website to find what was required. It would even have taken less time than the typing of the reply email to point out the mis-leading link.

Still a lot of work to do in order to re-define professional learning, and for teachers to activate the desire to leverage technology for self learning.

Feed me by ~ GromekTwist

What Your Classroom Says About You, The Educator

Walking into a vacant classroom and having a look around (even without the students being there) can tell you a lot about the sort of learning that goes on in there. How the furniture is laid out, the posters and work samples on the wall, the artifacts and resources available all tell a story of what is valued and what is possible for the students assigned to that classroom.

I’m picturing a couple of classrooms (fictional but typical of some that I have seen)  in my head as I type. I’m not going to identify when, where or who – but one I’m thinking of had class desks in a haphazard array, with very little displays of anything on the walls. The teacher’s desk takes up a sizable portion of the corner of the room and is a dumping ground with mounds of worksheets, student workbooks and newsletters threatening to slew off onto the floor. The laptop trolley is left open with laptops stuck in on varying angles and power chargers dangling unattached. The philosophy espoused by the teacher is of student choice but in a very unstructured way – the kids determine the seating arrangements but personalisation is catered using a worksheet driven approach. There is freedom but very little responsibility. There is choice but no structure. Nothing on the walls indicate that nothing is important enough to showcase – or that the teacher doesn’t want to find the time to get any displays happening. Maybe, this teacher clocks out as soon as possible when the students leave so there is minimal time left to try and create an inviting environment. What sort of learning is possible in this space?

The next classroom has sections divided off for specific purposes. There aren’t designated seats for specific students to sit at but a central spot within the classroom is set aside for whole class instruction or for students to sprawl out for reading or doing partner activities. The room has different furniture options for the students to use – some low seats, cushions in a corner, some higher stools at a higher table. Your eyes are drawn to the various areas and there doesn’t seem to be a teacher’s desk either. This speaks to a different commitment to enabling student learning – it is apparent that not all children can be involved in the same activity as a whole class easily.

We had Lisa Burman speak to our staff on Thursday in our lead up to the start of the school year. Her focus in the morning session was on the strategic design of learning environments and she shared examples of classrooms where the teacher had re-designed the layout to reflect a changed approach to pedagogy. It certainly provoked a flurry of activity in the afternoon when teachers headed to set up their classrooms for the start of the 2013 school year. People were keen to “de-clutter” and “re-design their learning spaces” which meant that her message about the learning space being an accurate picture of a teacher’s approach to learning hit home. Some teachers who had already been strategically thinking in this way and had started their journey of re-examining what their learning space should be were visited by those who hadn’t thought too deeply about these things before. Others who looked at a space and only saw one picture of how the classroom could look asked others for their opinion and vision to break free of their own entrenched comfortable habits. Hopefully, no one was misguided enough to believe that the simple re-design of a classroom meant that their teaching practice would be transformed. But thinking consciously about this is an important step towards examining one’s own teaching practice.

I thought back to some of the teaching spaces I have inhabited over my career. I’ve taught in transportables, open space units, traditional single classrooms, a former library complete with an upstairs annexe and a brand new BER “21st century learning” building at my previous school. However, it is what is done within those classrooms that is most important – you will find more about that in an old blog post of mine from 2006 titled Classrooms. However, I think that when you know what learning should look like for your learners, then the learning space design will be shaped in the best way to make that happen.

My 2010 / 11 BER classroom being built.

 

Mixed Messages And Simple Truths

On Monday, I heard Dylan William say that computers don’t make a difference to learning in the classroom. On Thursday, I heard Gerry White say that technology is responsible for a 12% increase in achievement. Both asserted that their statements were backed by research.

Dylan William said on Monday (and Friday), “You are entitled to your own opinions. You are not, however, entitled to your own facts.”

John Hattie said something similar back in 2011 when he was in Adelaide, “I’m sorry but you can’t argue with the research.”

Over time, we as educators have become used to listening to and reading from gurus with simple truths. So many of us feel that we are well below the expertise of these edugurus (and I don’t mean to single out the examples above as being the only ones going around) so we pack into venues, feverishly copying dot points from slideshows, handing over cash to buy the book and match up the dispensed wisdom against our own learning, our own classrooms and schools to see if we are headed in the prescribed direction. I am guilty as anyone of being part of this phenomenon but it is interesting how connecting to lots of non-edugurus has helped me spot the mixed messages and view this dispensed wisdom through a more critical (some might say cynical) lense.

Another example from Monday. When I first arrived at my previous school, there were a few teachers who were using the Brain Gym program pushed by a teacher who considered himself an expert on the matter of brain research. He had attended Brain Gym training, had gone to other Brain based PD (quite popular about ten years ago) but something about the whole program didn’t sit right with me. I got some evidence that this was so when Ewan McIntosh published a blog post in 2007 that queried some of the bogus science and research that was at the core of the program. He was of course being informed by others in his network, so he published further posts and pointed to the growing evidence. But if back in 2007, I told those devotees of Brain Gym of Ewan’s findings, I would have been scoffed at.

“What would some blogger know about Brain Gym? He’s not an expert. It’s based on up to date brain research.”

So I kept my mouth shut. But then Dylan William canned Brain Gym on Monday as well. Suddenly, teachers knew for sure that it was bogus, because an authoritative voice had said so. Not one of their colleagues, not some mysterious blogger from Scotland but someone who is currently viewed by our Australian educational community as an expert. We, as educators, are so conditioned to the notion that our knowledge isn’t expert enough, that our day to day experiences aren’t enough to grasp the bigger picture that we concede the higher factual ground to those on the stage or behind the podium.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a post against people like Dylan William or John Hattie who bring us their research, their findings and their advice. What they bring to us via their research, their books and their presentations is extremely valuable.  But I hope that as you sit in a keynote with a phone, tablet or laptop that connects you to the motherlode of information, the internet, you have enough faith in yourself to conduct some research of your own. Confront the mixed messages, don’t take the word of any guru as gospel, and look for the truths that emerge as you do so.

Just think of it as a form of information literacy.

Adapted from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/41818779@N00/98309338 by Robert Scales.

These Fingertips Are Going To Cost Me

I ran a PD session today as part of our weekly staff session focussing on awareness raising around online tools for professional self-learning. I focussed on the potential of Twitter, Diigo, delicious, Google Reader and touched on Edmodo. It feels weird to be introducing these tools that so many in the edtech field see as standard fare that has been around for quite a while and I know that many on my staff have known about these tools but still many regular classroom teachers are unaware of the potential growth and access to great ideas and resources that social bookmarking and feed aggregation can produce.

Anyway, I tried to strike a balance between the show-and-tell that is required with some choice and free time for my colleagues to explore. I used Dan Meyer as an example (again) as his output and sharing is second to none, and he really comes across in his videos and blog posts as someone that everyone can like and relate to even if he is operating at this hyper-extreme productivity level of video production, blog posting and curriculum development that no one else I know in my day to day life could keep pace with. I showed a couple of my dy/av videos and pointed out how and where he shares his thoughts, ideas, resources and insights across the web before offering them a challenge based on his own fingertip analogy from way back in 2010. If you subscribe to Dan, you may remember this one:

Let me urge you to consider that question under the following fictional constraint: every time you tell a teacher to download a new application or set up an account with a new web application, the teacher loses a fingertip.

Bracket, for a moment, the grossness of the scenario. I’ll let you decide how the teacher loses the fingertip. The point is that y’all don’t understand that you’re a bunch of freaks. Someone links up some new online Photoshop knock-off and on muscle memory alone you’re entering in your e-mail address and a password and clonking away at your new toy.

Real people aren’t like that. And you give them too much grief, sometimes, for their unwillingness to sign up for ten different web apps to service ten different nuances in their learning which you have judged to be equally essential.

So: fingertips. Be careful here. I would give the fingertip off my right ring finger for Google Reader. I would sacrifice a second fingertip for Delicious.

So, with the metaphor firmly in place, I figured that bribery and encouragement works better than guilt trips about how teachers need to get with the program and be connected for their students’ sake. I threw the following slide up on the screen:

The reward is a chocolate like the KitKat pictured – as KitKats can be broken into fingers (get it!) – and I remarked that I could potentially be up for an expensive purchase of choccy bars as staff signed onto the tools and tweeted or friended me as evidence they were on their way to embracing connected self-learning! A colleague then said that I maybe should have wagered with someone else that I could raise thirty or so new followers on Twitter in a day, and I could have funded the reward!

So, Dan, I’m sorry if I keep mentioning you and your work from a year or so back as a starting point for others but you are an ideal role model because you weren’t a tech head like the majority of us whose day job involved tech integration into student learning. But if I tell the whole story that you show on your website that shows where you’ve gone since those days as a beginning mathematics teacher, they may well be overwhelmed and intimidated into not giving this a go. But if someone like me is making a useful contribution, then it can’t be that hard.

Headspace

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrdarkroom/4265886842/

Frank, my boss, likes to talk about three types of space in school – physical space, virtual space and teacher headspace. The first two only get used well when the third is open to good practice, seeing things differently and willing to re-imagine what could be.

I’ve been in leadership since 2003 but it has mainly been on what I think is the first rung – as a coordinator who had release time from my own classroom responsibilities to lead out in the area of learning technologies. Since July last year, I’ve been on the next rung as an Assistant Principal, and it is only now as I’m starting a new school year with this school and this group of colleagues that I’m really realising the difference it makes when you have different broader responsibilities without the responsibility of one specific group of students.

As a coordinator, it was easy to lead by example. “I’ve set this up in my classroom and it works this way.” I had classroom credibility but was always short on time to do as much as is needed for the whole school big picture. Now I have the time and scope in my new experience but I have no classroom presence to draw on and to demonstrate with.

A quick example from Wednesday. I led a presentation on Inquiry Learning, knowing that at a large school just over a year old, there would be colleagues with a wide variety of experiences and perspectives on the topic. At Lockleys North, we had a huge focus on inquiry learning and I have a reasonable amount of experience with the process, planning and implementation of learning in this vein. I’ve had the privilege of high level training and PD – three sessions with Kath Murdoch, two times listening to both Mark Treadwell and John Hattie and been to Melbourne to spend three days with Jay McTighe. I’ve designed units of work with my former Upper Primary colleagues over the past four years and sat in on the planning of many others in that time. I have a sizeable digital resource library of articles, videos, powerpoints and templates. I’ve even been on the journey from back when I was teaching at Flagstaff Hill Primary in the nineties and getting into Resource Based Learning in a major way just as the internet was becoming a viable thing in South Australian schools. I dabbled and wrote webquests, then moved onto Problem Based Learning in my new role as a coordinator at Lockleys North when I started in 2003. So I’ve done heaps.

But now it is all in my head. I mean it was in my head before too but I could show Inquiry Learning as an extension of my own practice. As an AP, I’m the person spouting what the classroom teachers should be doing, becoming a quasi-consultant – talking the talk but the walk is back in the immediate past. I worry that I may become one of those people from the department who lose touch with what really happens in the classroom and a result command very little respect without ever really realising that their words are ignored at best.

I’m sure that if you are a school leader, you know what I’m talking about. So, I’m keen for any feedback here.

How did you make that transition from leading classroom practitioner to leadership?

How did you hang on that credibility that is vital for effective leadership?

Unlearning, Relearning, Learning

It often takes me a while to get ideas to clarify within my mind. It can be a concept that is crystal clear to others but I need to strain the ideas through a few different sieves before I can articulate the essential gist of a concept. Forgive me if you are in the camp where I’m about to state the blatantly obvious.

I read this post from Chris Betcher back in May, and it stuck in my brain like a prickle in my sock. I’d heard the following sentiments quite a few times before in various blogs all over the web.

I’m so tired of having the integration of technology into learning overlooked because it’s “too hard”. As educators – actual professional educators, who actually go into classrooms every day and teach for a living – we do NOT have the luxury of choosing whether we should be integrating technology, or whether we want to learn more about it, or whether we think it’s relevant to the learning process.  It is, it’s part of the job and if people don’t think so, then they ought to be getting a copy of the Saturday paper and looking for a something else to do where they CAN be selective about what part of the job they are willing to take seriously without it impacting on our future generations.

There was a lot of “Here, here, well said” comments and it didn’t sit well with me. So I added my own counter-rant in the comments section where I felt I was defending my much maligned less tech-savvy colleagues. I ended my rebuttal with the following:

Education is always in constant flux and teachers spend their whole careers in a state of unlearning and re-learning. I know that for every thing I can do well in terms of tech integration with students, there are other teachers with other skills in other areas outdoing me and no one really has the moral high ground.

I got a bit of pushback from a fellow commenter and sought to clarify my thoughts further:

I suppose what provoked my response is that I’ve read posts like Chris’s all over the web, lamenting those incompetents who don’t “get it” and I don’t think it achieves much more than getting a round of “hear, hears” and a tone of self-righteousness in the comments. Teaching is complex and becoming increasingly more so, and every facet deserves as much focus for our students’ futures as technology use for learning. Is everyone here on top of every aspect of their teaching practice? Or will some at least admit that, like myself, there are aspects of our job we are not top of totally, components that are works in progress and parts that we find harder to engage with. Think of those aspects and at least recognise the fact that technology use for learning does not come easily for everyone – and that does immediately label them as being less than worthy educators.

Then Chris replied in a manner that finally turned the switch on in my brain, and I could finally see his post in a different, less oppositional light.

I think you sum it up in your last paragraph when you say “Education is always in constant flux and teachers spend their whole careers in a state of unlearning and re-learning.”  For those teachers who accept this state of flux, who willingly learn and unlearn and relearn, I don’t think anyone would criticise those efforts. You’re absolutely correct in saying that there are MANY aspects of the classroom competing for our attention: staying up to date with current developments in literacy and numeracy, brain theory, learning theory, etc, not to mention staying abreast of information about allergies, child safety legislation, OH&S, etc, etc… teaching is a busy job, there’s no argument about that.

My beef is with those that have simply given up, or refuse to do the learning, unlearning and relearning.  It’s not really about technology per se, although I think that the requirement to integrate technology is a trigger that brings these attitudes to the surface.  The real issue is that some teachers – who are supposed to be learning professionals – have forgotten what it means to learn, unlearn and relearn.

Chris is dead right of course. Take the technology focus out of the discussion and what is clear that educators need to have a different mindset to be successful and relevant to their students. They must be in a constant state of unlearning and relearning, ready to challenge their established practice, looking for where to go to next, and adopting the very habits we want in our students.

I then read a powerful post from Dean Groom. As can happen on occasion, he was not totally happy with what he had written and he pulled the post from his blog. But it still came through my RSS reader and when I asked him about it, he replied that I was free to remix it as I saw fit. I’ll share a few key parts that helped me to understand the unlearning and relearning process that I do see many teachers still struggling with. And it does prove Chris’s point because technology tends to show up teachers’ learning dispositions clearly. Dean’s post was about teachers’ learning habits.

I said teachers are engineers and inventors – these are two critical skills of this decade, as trying to design learning episodes that create innovative pedagogy is a little like flying the Millennium Falcon. Nothing quite works all the time and there’s a total sense of urgency about the whole affair with a high possibility of disaster.

The manual is scattered all over the internet in videos, blogs, wikis and people. Most people lack the social keys to decode this, the literacies needed to find it and won’t use their downtime for what they see as work-related actions.

The time allocated to formal workplace development is massively insufficient, and usually lacks any innovation, invention or re-engineering of the experience.

I’ve  seen this when I conduct PD for teachers. Some only need a point in the general direction and others want you to sit side by side with them as they work out how to sign up to a new online account. It is ironic that I get requests for PD on tools that I’ve worked out for myself or by using the “scattered manual” that Dean refers to. That’s the unlearning and relearning at work there. Teachers who teach their students lock step or via spoonfeeding expect that is how their own learning should work too. I do like the idea of doing the PD as a group where I’ll start things off but the idea is to work things out by spinning things off with your neighbours and having an exploratory and playful disposition. I did that last week when I introduced delicious to my new staff (and yes, there are probably hundreds of teachers out there who have never heard of social bookmarking or how it is one tech tool that empowers teachers to learn on their own with others.

Dean also says:

There is a cultural expectation that has been created by 1990s idea of the computer as a ‘tutor’. This gives rise to the idea novices are there to learn ‘how to use’ from an expert. There is an assumptions there will be step by step instructions, that someone will read them to you, that you will attempt to follow and if you don’t succeed, someone will swoop down and move you along. At some point, you will get to decide if you want to use the tool and information in the future. We can’t really call this competency based training, as there is no assessment and therefore no external reward for effort. At best we call it professional development hours, another symptom that teachers are not intrinsically life-long learners, but need a push factor.

I’ve heard that one too. “Are you doing some ICT PD, Graham, because I need to get some more hours?” Not the best indication of an intrinsic life-long learner but the phrase “life long learning” appears in nearly every school vision statement. And it’s an important thing to have there too. Because students will need those skills – but will they get them from a classroom where the person in charge can only talk the talk?

Dean summarises perfectly (to my mind):

A key idea in downtimer learning theory is that the rewards are almost always intrinsic, fuelled by some external motivation. The product of this is the network effect, where social-encoding of knowledge, essential resources and processes become unintelligible to anyone without sufficient keys to access it externally.

So, technology is important because in today’s world it is the enabler of learning unfettered by control. When the learner has that freedom, they work things out on their own or with others but they are not dependent on others to provide them with the resolution. With that technology in most people’s pocket or purse, there is no reason other than ignorance (unintended or willful) for anyone in the learning game to not be actively in charge of their own learning. And then starting to work out how they ensure that their students have the same options for their own learning within their classrooms.

Post update:

I thought that Dean had written another post illustrating the point I’m trying to make here, but I was wrong. He had referenced another post written by Sarah Thorneycroft and he graciously pointed me back there. Read that for a clarifying example.

 

George Booker – Developing Numeration

As part of our curriculum renewal around the subject of mathematics, we had a pupil free day that brought author of “Teaching Primary Mathematics”, George Booker to our school. As Australian schools move towards the new Australian curriculum, it was a very illuminating day to spend the day with someone who is one of Australia’s foremost experts on primary Maths education. Like most days like this, I had grand plans to capture all of my learning on my laptop but a blend of flagging concentration together with frequent hands on activities meant those good intentions trailed off.

The summary for the day went as follows:

This workshop will focus on the number strand, providing a conceptual overview to the processes and knowledge that constitute numeration and in turn underpin computation. Practical activities will focus on the development of concepts and processes and the sequences of development that best produce understanding and proficiency. As well as being important in themselves, these ideas are crucial to building number sense and an ability to solve problems and communicate with and abut mathematics.

George pointed out that his work has been influenced by the work of Jeremy Kilpatrick, referring to his book “Adding It Up“.

He firstly posed to us the question, “What is subtraction?” We discussed this in our groups coming up with phrases like “taking away”, the “difference”, and even “minus”. George pointed out that we don’t tell enough stories about Mathematics. All through his morning session he kept making reference to historical events and famous mathematicians, pointing out that it all adds context to what the students are learning. My colleagues and I kept smiling at all the common mentions that connected to the documentary “The Story Of One” we had been watching with our classes over the past week or two. He also pointed that the language we use with the Mathematics classroom matters as well. If we use the terms “plus” and “minus” then we are leading kids away from mathematical concepts. This also means no more references to the traditional four operations – the Aust’n Curriculum now talks about additive thinking and multiplicative thinking and that we need more people to get to the higher level of mathematics. George also pointed out that division is the easiest operation of all but possibly the worst taught…

He took us through all of the concepts he believed should be taught from the Foundation stage (known as Reception in South Australia, but Prep in other states) through the junior primary years. Number and Algebra should take up 60% of what is taught during Mathematics lessons as a solid base in number is key to success in other areas like Geometry, Probability and Statistics. Numeration is understanding the numbers we work with and their properties. George also pointed how to prepare effectively for NAPLAN tests. He didn’t advocate “teaching to the test” but emphasised that our students need to know the concepts that are being tested. Firstly, take the bubbles off the questions and get students to work only on the problem. Don’t just get last year’s question and give that to your class but ensure that you also provide more than the one example. He wisely pointed that only a very few students can get a concept from one example. Finally, put up six bubbles including one for “I don’t know” and “I got a different answer” as well as the 4 regular options. The point is not to get the right answer but to find out what the student is thinking.

When building the foundations, we start with materials in order to see patterns, before introduction to symbols.What turned so many people off from mathematics is being “symbol-minded” in our teaching. An essential skill for students is being able to see amounts without counting – known as subitising. What is a number? We always start with digits 0 to 9, using the ten frame pattern as a useful tool.

http://mathwire.com/strategies/matspv.html

http://mathwire.com/strategies/matspv.html

George also emphasises thinking and representing numbers in doubles to aid in subitising. This looks like this:

Not like this:

This arrangement forces the student to count each counter individually and does not develop the ability to subitise, while the upper frame clearly shows two equal amounts of four, that can be doubled to eight. Even if it were seven, it could be seen as two amounts of three then add the one remaining which is still embedding a greater sense of number in the student. We also spent quite a lot of time on place value, using popstick bundles and popsticks that students could easily manipulate and “rename” from tens to ones, and back again. He talked us through the correct processes for addition, subtraction and pointed out the phrase “borrowing” or “converting” was just fuel for confusing students – keep it simple and “re-name”.

All through the day, he kept referring to the four strands coming from the Jeremy Kilpatrick text. Mathematics has four stage for students to develop in order – (i) conceptual understanding, (ii) fluency, (iii) problem solving and (iv) reasoning. Now, I’ve only scratched the surface of the day but I’m sure as I delve into his book “Teaching Primary Mathematics“, more of what was covered will come to light. In the afternoon, he covered place value for large numbers and linking numeration to computation. A couple of the remnants that surface from my brain include:

Don’t teach rounding off until students can handle 4 digit numbers.
Short division = shortcut to disaster division!

George Booker recommends playing lots of number games to develop fluency, many of them with dice and simple charts.He also showed us through his own CD-ROM games which were developed over five years ago. Now I can never be sure what kids will find engaging, especially as my own sons find some very bizarre and seemingly simplistic games on the web that they find enthralling but gaming graphics and game design moves pretty fast. Some of the games reminded me of animated clip art, and I found myself wondering if George wouldn’t benefit from a conversation or ten with Dean Groom to marry the essential maths content to something kids would recognise in 2011 as being game-like. Now that would be something to use in your 1 to 1 classroom!

As we move from our SACSA Maths curriculum (which he posited could not have been written by mathematicians) George mentioned that he was very pleased with Australian Curriculum and things that have been included for the first time explicitly like rounding off decimal numbers. With that recommendation, our staff have the blueprint now to see how mathematical concepts should develop throughout the primary years, a sound “bible” to refer to and a common pathway to reform our own practice effectively.

Sharing Other People’s Stuff

After school, Wednesday, in our staff meeting time, I finally stepped up and talked about the idea of Sharing using digital tools for the first time. I mean it’s not the first time I’ve talked about using Delicious or any other social media tool, but it is the first time I’ve couched the whole thing around the premise of sharing, and the possibilities that sharing with a wider network of educators than just the ones at your site might open up. I’ve shied away from really talking in a formal way to my colleagues about networked learning – a mixture of not wanting to push my own potential zealotry and a worry that most won’t have a clue what I’m talking about anyway. It’s hard to get the message just right so that they can see that this is a way that regular classroom teachers can go, because after all, it is the techhead, laptop loving freak pushing the ideas. If they could just sit here in this spot and see the potential stretch out in front of them like I can …

I chose to show the first seven minutes of Dean Shareski’s opening keynote video for the K12 Online Conference, which has stoked the fires of inquiring debate in a number of places across the web. I will chat to a few colleagues tomorrow and see what they got out of it. My worry is that not that they won’t see value in this form of sharing, but that they will see it as something beyond them, beyond what time will allow for them, beyond what their capabilities are as an online navigator.

What I struggle with as well is this notion of self-directed learning as a professional. I believe that participation in networked learning is ideally suited for this – tools like Twitter are subverted for educational sharing. But Twitter is mainly about sharing stuff that other people have created or found, and Delicious is the same. Neither ask the participant to put themselves “out there” like writing a blog post or adding content to a wiki or even posting a reply to a forum. So, why is that so many teachers find the use of social media for sharing to be such a step that they are unwilling to take? I find it hard to imagine their reluctance and need to be shown because I (like the majority of edubloggers I assume) have learnt how to use and manipulate social media through active participation. Workshops and PD sessions on how to use Google Reader and Delicious seem to run counter to the whole point of self directed learning through technology.

Also I feel that for a practice to stick, to become habitual, the desire to explore further must come from within. Maybe some teachers will never grasp the concept of online networked learning for their own professional improvement … but I have at least raised their awareness of what it is out there if they choose to look beyond their own self imposed boundaries.

Become A Better Juggler Or Maybe Just A Smarter One

I enjoy Lisa Neilsen’s blog but worry when I read words like this:

There is less tolerance for educators who do not believe it is their responsibility to move their teaching out of the past. Those stuck in the past… those who are not developing their own personal learning networks… those not taking ownership for their learning… are doing a great disservice to our students and themselves. In the words of leadership expert Jim Collins, these are the people that those who care about student success may want to advise to just get off the bus.

Not that I disagree with the sentiments but its tone is hardly encouraging to educators who are still tentative in their overall use of technology. What was that old saying about honey and vinegar?

Especially when teaching has become an increasingly complex job. I like to use the metaphor of a juggler with my colleagues, recognising that they already have a number of important balls in the air that they need to keep in motion. To take on a new ball, something needs to be done about the ones already airborne – either by taking one out of action or lessening the impact if it gets dropped.

Adapted from this image - http://www.flickr.com/photos/shawnzlea/137209564/

Adapted from this image - http://www.flickr.com/photos/shawnzlea/137209564/

Telling my colleagues they shouldn’t be in the job just because their technology ball isn’t whizzing around at the same intensity as the others is not fair and is as tunnel visioned as those who would judge teacher’s prowess on their students’ test scores.

Feeling Proud

I’m feeling very proud of my colleagues this evening. Between my principal and I, we cooked up a sharing process based on a poster sharing session she was part of during a Teaching Australia principal’s PD program. The focus was on sharing contemporary classroom practice with a technology flavour. We designed the poster template, had copies printed up on A2 paper and distributed them out to all staff members. I talked about the goals behind the process and followed up with this email:

Dear colleagues,

School Closure Day requirements:
Just to clarify from last night, you will receive your A2 sheet and marker  in your pigeonhole this afternoon. Your task is to reflect on and write in dot points about an aspect of your classroom practice that reflects
contemporary learning. Use the ISTE Standards to help hone your thoughts:
-
1.         Creativity and Innovation
2.         Communication and Collaboration
3.         Research and Information Fluency
4.         Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
5.         Digital Citizenship
6.         Technology Operations and Concepts
Think of something you have worked on that would fit into these categories, write it up on the A2 sheet with the view that you will present it to a group of colleagues speaking for no more than 5 minutes.
You will present it once more to more colleagues from other groups as well.
I know that this can be nerve-wracking for many of us but consider the following: Research shows that some of the most powerful learning occurs when colleagues share what they do (hence the emphasis on Professional Learning Communities). We also have a duty to our students and colleagues to de-privatise our practice – as we all build on each other’s work as students move through the school.
This is not an exercise in big-noting or critiquing.

Well, the resulting sessions were excellent. Ann had shuffled the staff into groups of 5 with a 5 minute allocation for each person to speak to their poster. Once that had happened, each group broke apart to re-present their poster, this time for 10 minutes to interested staff members from the other groups. So, in the space of an hour, I personally heard how a Year 3 teacher was using interactive material on netbooks with her class, how a Year 5/6 teacher was fostering a learning community within her classroom, a Year 5 teacher who used a key YouTube video to cement a key inquiry concept, an inspiring story of a Year 3 teacher new to our school this year who had gone in his words from “Lost In Space” to “Star Trek” in his evolving use of the same netbooks, a junior primary teacher who was seeking to improve her IWB skills, our Assistant Principal who was using a literacy website with her Reception students as well as presenting my own on the use of delicious tagged bundles of sites for our Inquiry unit as well as the use of YouTube videos to show varying viewpoints on the topic of the Murray River / Lower Lakes. I’ve blogged about this before – but as is often the case, most of my colleagues don’t read this blog so this was the first they knew about my strategies.

It was an awesome array of contemporary practice at our school and showed that although the progress is all at differing stages and speeds, everyone is moving forward and committed to ensuring that our practice provides the best learning for our students. My next job is inform the parents booked in for my ICT Focus evening tomorrow night.